LONDON (AFP) — The Scouts, the youth movement best known for its focus on bracing outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and fishing, is to arm its teenage members with practical advice about sex.
The movement, whose motto is Be Prepared, has issued new guidelines aimed at Explorer scouts between 14 and 18 in a bid to help them better understand some of the realities about sexual relationships.
The Scouting Association, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, says the main aim is for leaders to encourage young people "to resist pressure to have early sex".
But, acknowledging that many youngsters are already sexually active from the age of 16 and younger, the movement is hoping to provide help and support to enable teenagers make safe and informed choices.
The advice even allows for Scout leaders to arrange a visit to a sexual health clinic or to hand out condoms if they believed a youngster was "very likely to begin or continue having intercourse" without protection.
Chief Scout Peter Duncan said: "We must be realistic and accept that around a third of young people are sexually active before 16 and many more start relationships at 16 and 17.
"Scouting touches members of every community, religious and social group in the country so adults in Scouting have a duty to promote safe and responsible relationships and, as an organisation, we have the responsibility to provide sound advice about how to do that."
The average age for British youngsters to start sexual activity is 16, and Britain has the highest teenage birth rate in western Europe.
Dr Karla Bee who helped draft the guidelines, said: "At a time when 10 percent of sexually active teenagers are estimated to have a sexually transmitted infection and 50 percent of teenagers say they do not use contraception, it is absolutely right that The Scout Association gives its young people the information they need."
Young People's Minister Beverley Hughes welcomed the move.
"While our teenage pregnancy rates are coming down and are at the lowest rate for over 20 years, there is much more to do to ensure young people have the knowledge they need to prevent early pregnancy and look after their sexual health," she said.
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