No topic was taboo at a special panel discussion on sex and the law in Bendigo yesterday.
Abortion, gay marriage, sexual assault and parenting rights were all hot topics at the event, held at Bendigo Senior Secondary College as part of Law Week.
Bendigo secondary students heard from lawyers Clare Vierboom and Stephen Payne, counsellors Sylvia Andrew and Travis Edwards, sexual health nurse Louise Holland and police officer Matthew Gildea.
Ms Holland said that the Loddon-Mallee region’s teen pregnancy rate was double the state average, and this led to a number of health and legal issues.
Ms Vierboom said it was important both teen mums and dads knew their legal rights.
“When the baby is in the womb the mother has the legal rights over her body, she makes the final decision over whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy,” she said.
“But when the baby is born the mother and father have equal rights.
“If you have engaged in sexual activity you have risked pregnancy and you are liable to pay child support.
“This law also supports the idea that it’s preferable for a child to have a relationship with both its parents.”
Mr Edwards said these were the issues young people had to consider before deciding if they were ready to have sex.
“It’s three minutes of fun that might have lifelong consequences,” he said.
Ms Holland said it was important teenagers didn’t find themselves pressured into being sexually active too young.
“The biggest misnomer for young people is that everybody is having sex and therefore they should be having sex,” she said.
“In fact only 20 per cent of 16-year-olds identify as being sexually active.”