National MP Joanne Hayes under fire for accepting 'dangerous' education petition

National MP Joanne Hayes has been accused of giving a "megaphone to intolerance" after accepting a petition to Parliament to remove the teaching of gender diversity in New Zealand schools.

Labour's youth wing says by accepting the petition, Hayes is putting young New Zealanders in danger.

"Jo Hayes has given a megaphone to intolerance by accepting this petition, which promotes dangerous, fringe, and baseless views on sexuality and gender diversity education in schools," says Young Labour president Sara Elgoran.

"LGBTQI young people already have tragically high rates of suicide and mental health issues. Sexuality education is incredibly important and it shouldn't be a political football."

More than 40,000 people signed the petition on the Parliament website, 'Stop transgender teaching in New Zealand schools', that urges the Ministry of Education to "remove learning intentions for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide".

The Green Party's Rainbow Greens group also condemned the petition and Hayes.

"We criticise such a harmful, transphobic petition and putting the lives of trans people up for debate again."

Women's right group Speak Up for Women on the other hand congratulated Hayes and slammed the Greens and Labour.

"Hayes' acceptance of this well-supported petition was the democratic thing to do," said spokesperson Ani O'Brien.

"It is disturbing that the parties of Government have been so quick to condemn the concerns of over 40,000 New Zealanders."

O'Brien said "children should not be taught that their personality, hobbies, or hairstyle, clothing, or toy preferences mean that they have been 'born in the wrong body'.

"Unlike sexual orientation, which is a based on the realities of biological sex, gender identity ideology is a belief system that not everyone subscribes to. Education about sexuality and consent doesn't require teaching metaphysical beliefs with no basis in fact."

Hayes has been approached for comment by Newshub.

Gender Minorities Aotearoa national coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi told Newshub in February they expect the petition will struggle to gain any traction in parliament, and suggested the number of signatories was suspiciously high for such a niche issue, with large support possibly sourced from overseas.

"I imagine it wouldn't be taken seriously. I would hope it wouldn't be."

Wi-Hongi says the school resource petition is born out of fear, which in turn is born out of ignorance.

"There is a fear of sexual violence, which is very understandable. But we have to remember people had the same fears 30 years ago around homosexual law reform.

"People said all the same things about how gays were going to molest people in bathrooms or how there would be paedophiles teaching in schools.

"We look back now and say 'How could people have thought like that?' but it's happening again."

A 2018 report on sexuality education in New Zealand schools found that comprehensive teaching, inclusive of diverse genders, contributes to the overall health, wellbeing and resilience of school students.