I’ve been following and, to a lesser degree, taking part in a discussion on the Escouts forums about Scout Groups not accepting girls into their sections.
Now first of all, I have to make two points –
1. Policy, Organisation and Rules (PO&R), rule 3.6 states –
f. All Scout Groups, Explorer Scout Units and Scout Networks are required to be open to male and female membership except in special situations. Single sex Sections may exist within a Scout Group provided that membership is available for both sexes across all Sections within that Group.
g. Special situations are defined as being where:
there are cultural or religious requirements for single sex working;
Scouting is offered in a single sex institution (e.g. school, young offenders institute) through a closed Scout Group);
a specialist single sex provision is required to meet a clearly identified educational need (e.g. Scouting for young mothers).
The decision whether Groups may become an exception to the policy is made by the District Commissioner in consultation with the County Commissioner.
So PO&R quite clearly states, that other than in very special circumstances, girls must be accepted into all sections of the Scout Association.
2. To my friends in the BSA, this is in no way me having a go at the BSA’s policies. I am not a member of the BSA (obviously!) and it is not my place to comment on their policies. Girls in (Boy) Scouting in the USA may or may not be a good thing, but I am not in a position to comment – so I won’t!
The discussion is over a couple of Groups who have decided not to allow girls into their Groups. As you may imagine, the discussion has got quite heated!
However, this raises the point that there are Groups out there who are willing to ignore some very major Scout Association rules.
One of the posters has stated that his is a big Group which offers its members a great programme and he challenges the SA to take issue with the Group. The other poster has said that if girls were forced upon the Group, then he and other Leaders would leave.
They are basically saying that they do not agree with specific rules and therefore they are able to ignore them!
As one of the posters is a Group Scout Leader, I find it quite alarming that his Group is actively promoting breaking the rules and ‘daring’ the SA to challenge the Group. What example is this setting to the young people in the Group?
No. 1 in the Scout Law says a ‘Scout is to be Trusted’. If a Group cannot be trusted to abide by the SA rules (PO&R) what hope is there?
The point is that if you join an organisation, you are agreeing to abide by its rules. If you don’t agree with them you can put up with the rule, you can try to get the rule changed or you can leave. Simple.
Some of the people have also stated that they have no girls in their Group, but should they wish to do so then they will be welcomed. The lack of girls in these Groups is down to the girls in their area not wanting to join and not because they are not allowed to!
Girls in Scouting in the UK is now here to stay whether people like it or not. This has been discussed to death in the past and the decision is made. Getting this particular rule changed back to ‘how things used to be’ is never going to happen.
As far as my Group was concerned, we did not take girls in any sections until 2007 as we did not want to upset the Guides who are associated with the Church that sponsors us.
However since the rules changed in 2007 (which meant Groups could not opt out of having girls), we’ve taken girls in all sections and we have not seen any problems at all. In fact a couple of our girl Scouts who went into Explorers have now become effective Young Leaders.
Indeed as soon as BP started the Scouts, girls wanted to join, but it was the values of the Edwardian era that prevented this.
The point of all this is that we belong to a movement (yes that means that things move on and don’t stay the same) that has rules and one of those rules is that we accept (perhaps I should say welcome) girls into Scouting. The rules are there – like them, lump them or leave.
As I said before, if we as Leaders cannot follow the rules of the organisation we represent, how can we not be hypocrites if we expect the young people of our Groups to follow rules if we are not willing to do so ourselves. We cannot be getting into ‘do as I say, not what I do’ .