Thursday 28 August 2008

All that Glitters

Before I go any further, I'd like to point out that I have absolutely no sympathy for Gary Glitter, or any paedophile. His actions were grossly exploitative of children, and as such are indefensible. Yet, as the media feeding-frenzy on his less-than-welcome return to the UK subsides, there are issues raised which need addressing (and, despite the endless coverage of the Glitter story, weren't addressed by the mainstream media).

Most notable was Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's riding the wave of revulsion of Glitter's crimes, by announcing the populist measure of extending the ban on convicted sex offenders travelling abroad. Yet, as Ecpat UK have stated, "British law enforcement has the tools to protect children abroad, they just don't use them" (Ecpat UK: New Report Shows Government Failure in Combating Child Sex Tourism). Besides, concentrating exclusively on child sex tourism overlooks the fact that all sex tourism is undesirable, as adult prostitutes in the Third World (and sometimes in the West) are vulnerable and often heavily exploited and abused. Surely the best way to reduce the problem of child prostitution is to enact measures to protect the welfare of all sex workers. (My views on prostitution in general have been covered in an earlier blog article, Pimping an alternative).

Since the increased restrictions on foreign travel appear un-necessary, this begs another question: Is the Sex Offenders Register primarily designed to protect children from abuse (as it was originally touted), or as a punitive measure? And if it is designed to be punitive rather than protective, should it perhaps be used more sparingly?

True, some necessary restrictions are punitive by nature; such as the travel bans already available in British law, and the restrictions on what employment people on the Sex Offenders Register can have. But occasionally, this goes well beyond the scope of protecting children; last year, a contestant was removed from ITV's Britain's Got Talent show because he was on the Sex Offenders Register, for a crime so heinous he was given a Conditional Discharge in court. (The irony is not lost on me that ITV has also shown I Smack And I'm Proud, despite protest from the NSPCC)

Indeed, not everyone on the Sex Offenders Register is a paedophile, or even a molester. People have ended up on the Register for acts of consenting BDSM activity among adults, for example.

There is also the situation of people being placed on the Sex Offenders Register after receiving a formal caution, for offences not considered serious enough to go to court. Yet many people will agree to a formal caution rather than end up in court, with the publicity and stigma that often entails - especially when it comes to an offence as taboo as sex crime.

The Sex Offenders Register seems to have much in common with ASBOs, also originally touted as a means of "protecting the community" rather than as a punitive measure. Likewise, people often end up with ASBOs, which often carry heavy restrictions, for behaviour which would not necessarily result in a court conviction. Finally, both ASBO's and orders to sign the Sex Offenders Register seem to be handed out like flyers :-P

What is also scary is the way "child abuse" has been hijacked by the Establishment, almost to the point of it becoming a weasel-word. In previous blog articles I've talked about how photographing even your own kids in a public place is now about as socially acceptable as telling sick jokes at a funeral :( More recently, there was talk by local authorities of getting social services to investigate the families of overweight kids. Around the same time, there were local news reports of kids being sent warning letters for playing games on the street. Well, maybe I'm missing something, but preventing kids from getting exercise outdoors sounds to me like a very funny way of tackling childhood obesity!

But perhaps most importantly of all, epitomised by the Glitter coverage is the way the media portrays child abuse as solely the act of sick individuals. Yet, in reality, most child abuse occurs within the family. And, far from an aberration, it is often institutionalised within the capitalist system.

Physical abuse traces its roots back to the Industrial Revolution and child labour; children were forced to work for long hours doing unpleasant work, and had to be forced into doing so by beatings. Even as child labour was largely abolished, "reasonable chastisement" continued to be promoted as a way of keeping kids subservient to the rules of the system. Even to this day, the government still refuses to outlaw smacking completely :(

Child sex abuse is more complicated, and has never been directly encouraged by the Establishment. But that does not let the capitalist system off the hook. The perversion of sexual relationships into a patriarchal situation where the man dominates the woman (as mentioned in my Iris can't see the truth blog article), mixed with the situation where children are similarly dominated by adults, is a fertile breeding ground for sick individuals to take sexual pleasure by exercising their domination on the most vulnerable people in society, ie children. People like Glitter are sick and obnoxious monkeys, but let's not take our eye off the organ grinder...

Capitalism is the main sex offender. As such, it should not be allowed anywhere near our schools and youth services. Nor should it be allowed, via war and imperialism, to travel abroad.

If I had my way, it would be permanently taken out of circulation!

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