Planned law 'will make sex advice in teen mags illegal'

By Alyson Fixter

Teen magazines could be criminalised for printing agony aunt columns
under new sexual abuse laws planned for Scotland, campaigners have
warned.

The Teen Magazines Arbitration Panel (TMAP) is pushing for changes
to the Scottish Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual
Offences Bill, which in its current state could be used to prevent teen
mags giving advice to readers ranging from kissing tips to answers to
sexual health problems.

The problem arises from a section of the
bill that allows for an application for a Risk of Sexual Harm Order
(RSHO) to be made for “communicating with a child, where any part of
the communication is sexual”.

TMAP has been supported by Scottish
MSPs in its campaign to get a section added to the bill ensuring those
who are proven to be acting in the interests of the child are excluded
from the ban.

A spokesman for TMAP said: “If taken literally an
RSHO could be applied to magazine personnel who write ‘ten best kissing
tips’ or to agony aunt columns advising worried teenagers about sexual
problems, as well as those providing support and protection for young
people in the teaching and health professions. “The amendment proposed
would not change the core intent of the bill, which rightly seeks to
protect young children from predatory and abusive behaviour by adults.”

SNP
MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “We believe it is vital people don’t feel
inhibited in giving sexual advice to those working with children and
protecting them. The amendment provides for giving advice and support
on sexual matters to young people.”

TMAP is made up of a panel of
health, education, legal and publishing professionals. Panel chairwoman
Dr Fleur Fisher said: “This draft legislation confounds the grooming
activities of predatory paedophiles with the professional activities of
teachers, counsellors, doctors, nurses and journalists.

“If not
suitably amended this act will deny young Scots access to the
information and support they need to become sexually competent and
responsible adults.”

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