World-renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been drawn into the increasingly nasty battle over marriage equality in Australia. He responded angrily to claims he supports child sex abuse after the Marriage Alliance, a group of Catholic Liberals opposed to equal marriage, recently began a campaign on social media, taking a quote completely out of context.
I contacted Peter for his response. He replied:
The claim that I support paedophilia is untrue. It is a smear that was begun by neo-Nazis & the far right BNP (British National Party) to discredit my human rights work. I do not support adults having sex with kids. Never have. I oppose child sex abuse and have argued for better protection AGAINST the abuse for young people. See my real views. Please read my REAL views in full.
Tatchell has long campaigned for a change in the age of consent, to stop young people who have sex with one another being criminalised. Not to permit adults to have sex with children, as he makes abundantly clear.
- I do not support adults having sex with children.
- I do not advocate teenagers having sex before the age of 16.
But if they do have sex before their 16th birthday, they should not be arrested, given a criminal record and put on the sex offenders register.
Perhaps the ideal solution would be that the age of consent remains at 16 but that sexual behaviour involving young people under 16 should not be criminalised, providing there is informed consent, no one is harmed and there is no more than two or three years difference in their ages. This would end the criminalisation of similar-aged young people, while protecting the under-16s against sexual abuse by those much older. I hope this reassures you.
Tatchell points out that the key to keeping young people safe is not to use the law, nor to keep kids in ignorance, but to provide appropriate sex and relationship education from an early age, something the likes of the Marriage Alliance recoil from in horror.
However, any lowering of the age of consent needs to go hand-in-hand with candid, compulsory sex education in schools, beginning with age-appropriate teaching from the first year of primary school. Then, from the age of 12, before they become sexually active, pupils should be given explicit advice on how to deal with sex pests, negotiate safer sex and sustain fulfilling relationships based on mutual consent and respect.
Such sane views, however, are unlikely to be welcome to those who prefer to close their eyes to reality.
It’s beyond ironic that a Catholic group should be attempting to smear gay men with this old paedophile lie, when the truth is that most child abusers are members of that child’s own heterosexual nuclear family, or a close and trusted family friend. Like the local Catholic priest.