Please note that in the policies of the United Kingdom Scouting Association (UKSA) when it talks about a 'Young Person,' it is referring to someone participating in a youth program and when it talks about an an 'Adult,' it is referring to someone who is supporting a youth program.
The distinction needs to be kept in mind, as it is possible in the many UKSA programs for a Young Person to be older than an 'Adult' and for an individual to be both a Young Person and an Adult. Conversely, it is therefore possible for an Adult to be younger than a 'Young Person' and for an individual to be both an Adult and a Young Person.
Equal Opportunities Policy: Guidelines with reference to Young People
No young person should receive less favourable treatment on the
basis of, nor suffer disadvantage by reason of, his or her sexual status or orientation.
2. Scouting Principles
The Aim of the Association is to enable young people to develop
physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually. The forming of relationships (both sexual and platonic) are part of the social development for all young people.
Before puberty, children begin to explore their sexuality by looking at each other and by exploring their own bodies. Leaders who discover this behaviour should ignore it, unless it is causing distress to
another child or is becoming public. In the latter case, it would be appropriate to explain the differences between what is appropriate in public and what in private to the child.
In adolescence, young people become increasingly aware of their own bodies and their sexuality, and emotional attachments can
begin. Again, it is important for Leaders to help some young people to understand the nature of public and private behaviour, and the need to respect other people's privacy and personal space. When two young people do form an emotional attachment, Leaders should both support their need for some privacy together as well as help them to remember their other friends, who may feel rejected by the couple.
It is important that Leaders in all training Sections are ready to discuss young people's questions and concerns about relationships, sexual behaviour, and sexual morality. Leaders should also be ready to discuss the moral and religious beliefs which inform their own sexual behaviour, being aware that even in Groups sponsored by a faith community, young people will be aware of the wide divergence
in society of moral values and norms of behaviour.
In the Venture Scout and Scout Sections it is appropriate for these discussions to be regular parts of the programme, and common for informal opportunities to arise frequently. When serious and honest discussions of this sort are part of the life of the Troop or Unit it
may be appropriate for Leaders to give advice on sexual morality, sexual behaviour and practices, and contraception.
Leaders should also help couples understand the full implications of having a sexual relationship, both for their relationship and for those around them.
When giving advice Leaders must uphold the law - sexual intercourse under the age of consent is illegal. The ages of consent in the United Kingdom are:
- 16 years old for heterosexual young people;
- 18 years old for homosexual men;
- there is no age at which lesbianism is illegal.
3. Restrictions to youth Membership on the basis of sexual behaviour
There is no basis on which any young person can be refused
Membership of the Association on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
Leaders should be aware that some young people, generally girls, mature sexually faster than others. Sexual relationships between young people at different stages of sexual development are inappropriate. Adolescence is a time of sexual exploration; it would
not be legitimate to remove a young person from Membership because of their sexual behaviour unless the behaviour was damaging other Members of the Troop or Unit.
4. Problems for Commissioners
The legal position of sexual relationships between young people can
be complex, and varies between different countries in the United Kingdom. If the law is critical, advice can be obtained from the Legal Department at Headquarters or from The Children's Legal Centre. Their advice line is available Monday-Friday, 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00 on 01206 873820.
A. There is a consenting, lawful sexual relationship between two
Commissioners should advise Leaders that they may need to give the young people guidance on:
- their relationship and feelings for each other;
- their responsibilities to each other and to their parent(s
- the appropriateness of their behaviour while on a Scouting activity.
Such behaviour is not any grounds for asking them to leave the Unit.
b. There is a consenting, unlawful sexual relationship between two
Commissioners should advise Leaders that they should give guidance in the best interests of each of the young people. This will depend on the emotional maturity of each of the young people, and their relationship with their parent(s)/guardian(s). Leaders should explain the legal position, and the consequences, to them, but should be
warned that a determinedly legalistic approach is unlikely to be helpful.
c. There is a sexual assault of a Member by another youth Member.
The Police should always be involved where sexual behaviour is
accompanied by violence or the threat of violence. In such cases Commissioners will need to make a decision about whether the assailant should be permitted to remain in the Movement. This decision should be based on whether the assailant is a potential danger to other Members. In all cases the assailant should not in any circumstances be permitted to continue in the same Group as the victim.
d. A Scout or Venture Scout makes it known that he or she is bi-sexual or homosexual.
It is not acceptable to ask, encourage or apply pressure to a gay or lesbian Scout or Venture Scout to leave the Movement. Commissioners and Leaders should acknowledge the courage
required by a young person to make this known. It may be appropriate to offer people in the Section or Group opportunities to discuss sexuality and sexual orientation.
5. References and Resources
1. The Equal Opportunities Policy Case Studies includes relevant case studies for the sexual behaviour of young people. The Pack is available from the Scout Information Centre.
2. Sexual Feelings and Relationships is a pack for people who work
with young people, which includes a young person`s guide to looking at relationships and sexual feelings. It is available from AVERT, 4 Brighton Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 5BA. Tel. 01403 210 202
3. Contact details for national or local organisations with information and advice on various aspects of sexual behaviour are available from
the Field Development Service.
Equal Opportunities Policy: Guidelines
with reference to Adults
All adult Volunteers working in the Movement must be fit and proper
persons to undertake the duties of the position to which they have been appointed, and, where appropriate, the responsibilities of Membership. The safety and security of young people, the continued development of young people and equal opportunities for all should be ensured.
The sexual orientation and the sexual behaviour of adult Volunteers
in the Movement are two important factors on which an individual's propriety, that is whether they are a proper person for a Scouting role, should be judged.
Any form of sexual interest in children (a sexual orientation called paedophilia) renders an adult Volunteer improper to hold any role whatsoever within Scouting. Paedophile men may be heterosexual,
homosexual or bi-sexual. However, incestuous sexual relationships within the home are one of the commonest forms of sexual abuse of children. Women are rarely paedophiles, but a woman may assist a man in enacting his sexual interests. The Scout Association's duty to promote the safety and security of young people is paramount in all such cases.
Other sexual behaviour, such as an involvement in the sex industry,
can also render an adult Volunteer improper to hold an appointment within the Movement.
2. Scouting Principles
The Aim of the Association is to promote the personal social
development of young people. It is important that Leaders are aware of the responsibility they have, within their role, of helping young people who are developing both sexual and non-sexual relationships. The key Scouting principle that Leaders should emphasise when educating about relationships is a respect for others and for oneself. This includes supporting platonic female-male friendships and young people discovering and exploring their own sexuality. Therefore, all
Leaders must promote the ideal that sexual relationships are formed within stable, loving and committed relationships, and demonstrate a commitment to this goal.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which The Scout Association has endorsed, stated that 'the child should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and
understandings Scouting is for young people from all family backgrounds, with the joys and problems that go with them, therefore it is advantageous to have experience of a wide range of types of family structures within Leadership teams. The United Nations Declaration stated that the family was 'the fundamental group in society and the natural environment for the growth and well being of all its members', and Leaders should support young people
in being part of, and in future to form, families. All Leaders must be able to commend wholeheartedly the ideal of a family built upon stable, loving and committed relationships, and exemplify, in whatever way their circumstances permit, a commitment to it.
3. Restrictions to adult Membership on the basis of sexual behaviour
There is no basis on which any Volunteer offering his or her services in any capacity can be refused an appointment in, or Membership of, the Movement on the grounds of heterosexual or homosexual orientation. Homosexuality has been perceived as incompatible with Scouting by some people (both within and outside The Scout Association) on the basis of a presumed link between homosexuality
and paedophilia. This perception has been used to deny homosexual people the chance to work with young people as Scout Leaders. There is no link between homosexuality and paedophilia, and therefore there is no justification for restricting Membership on this basis.
It is important that Commissioners are aware that there are types of
sexual behaviour (in addition to paedophilia) which are not acceptable, and make a Leader or other Volunteer improper for a role in Scouting. These principles apply to all without regard to gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
- A sexual relationship between an adult Leader and a youth Member in their Group. Such a relationship is unacceptable even when the young person is over the age of consent or
emotionally mature. A Leader has responsibility and authority over the young people in his or her Group or Section, and therefore has a power over Members of their Section or Group which is open to manipulation in a sexual relationship. This should not be interpreted to mean that no genuine relationship can start between two people within a relationship of trust. But given the inequality at the heart of a relationship of trust, the relationship of trust should be ended before any sexual
relationship develops. If a Leader and young person do form a relationship, one of them, usually the Leader should transfer to another Group.
- An adult Leader expresses their sexuality in a way that causes distress or confusion to young people. This may be by inappropriate talking, flirting, boasting of sexual experiences or revealing a promiscuous lifestyle.
- A Leader uses sex or sexual attraction in a manipulative fashion which demonstrates a lack of respect for other people.
- A Leader demonstrates by his or her behaviour that he or she cannot honestly commend the formation of loving, committed and stable relationships as a worthwhile goal for young people.
4. Problems for Commissioners
a. A Sponsoring Authority, because of the teachings of the particular faith, may have different views on homosexuality, single-parenthood, divorce and remarriage, Leaders who cohabit, and so on to The Scout Association.
In such cases, Commissioners should take great care in clarifying the basis of the objection to a Leader or other Volunteer continuing or commencing the role. Commissioners will frequently need to explain to Groups, parents and Sponsoring Authorities that the values, Aim and Policies of the Association are in accordance with those of all
world faiths and communities but are not identical with those of any one faith.
Depending on the nature of the sponsorship agreement, a Sponsoring Authority may be within its rights to insist that a Leader in a sponsored Group conforms to the values and beliefs of that faith community. In such cases Commissioners have the responsibility to
find an alternative role for the Leader so that he or she can continue to be a Member.
b. Two Leaders have an affair, which is the subject of gossip, is openly recognised and/or there is local press interest.
In such cases Commissioners will have to decide whether the
Leaders' behaviour has made them improper to continue in the Movement (as defined in Section 3 above). If their behaviour has made them improper then the cancellation of Warrants is justified. If it is not, the Commissioner should then consider whether either or both Leaders have lost the confidence of the parents of the Group. Where that is so, a transfer to another Group or District is inevitable. However, if the Leader(s) retain the confidence of parents then
they should continue, though they may want a short break from their role until the situation is made clearer or is resolved.
c. A Leader(s) is involved in an acrimonious divorce.
Divorce does not, in itself, make a Leader improper to continue in
Scouting. However Commissioners should consider if, for instance, behaviour revealed in court as leading to the divorce does bring the Leader's properness into question. Violent assaults on a partner, for example, may be good grounds for saying that the safety of children in that person's care is called in to question. Commissioners should also consider whether the divorce process and accompanying pain detract from the Volunteer's ability to fill his or her role in Scouting
in the short term.
Commissioners may well have to make difficult decisions for Leaders and other Volunteers who feel that this break is not necessary, that they are being further punished for his or her spouse's behaviour, or where 'Scouting is keeping me going'. In all cases, the safety and security of young people should be the principal concern.
d. Complaints about the sexual behaviour of a Leader (from parents or a young person).
- Commissioners should first consider whether this is a child protection issue - has there been a sexual assault? In such case, Commissioner should implement the child protection referral
and suspension procedures immediately.
- If the behaviour is not a child protection issue, but has resulted in a loss of confidence from a significant number of parents in the Group, the Commissioner may well need to visit Group and talk at length with the parents. It is difficult to arbitrate in painful and contentious situations, and Commissioners should ensure that the facts are known and that the needs of the
young people are put first.
- If the complaint is based on a clash of moral values between the Leader and some parents, Commissioners need to separate moral issues from the Policy, Principles and Aim of the Association. They must be prepared to defend a Volunteer's right to be a Leader even if some people disapprove of past behaviour. A woman having one or more children out of wedlock
or by different partners, for example, is not improper on those facts alone.
e. A Leader or other Volunteer makes it known that he or she is bi-sexual or homosexual.
It is not acceptable to ask, encourage or apply pressure to a gay or
lesbian Leader or other Volunteer to leave the Movement. It may be appropriate to offer Members of the Section or Group, and their families, opportunities to discuss sexuality and sexual orientation, and The Scout Association's policy toward it.
5. References and Resources
Contact details for national and local organisations with information on various aspects of sexual behaviour are available from the Scout Information Centre.
The Equal Opportunities Policy Case Studies includes relevant case studies for the sexual behaviour of Leaders and other Volunteers.