Friday, 10 September 2010

Tatchell's many campaigns, not always on parallel lines

Peter Tatchell, veteran rights campaigner and 'Protest the Pope' frontman, has at least six campaigns on the go at any one time. It's hard -- especially in the age of the internet -- to keep them all separate.

Recently, for example, he has been calling on the Vatican to open all the files it has on priests who have had sexual relations with minors -- known commonly as "abuse". Thus Tatchell (photo) the other day, after meeting +Peter Smith: "The Pope's condemnation of child abuse will not be taken seriously until he opens the Vatican's sex abuse files and hands them to the relevant police forces worldwide." 

But Tatchell is also a campaigner for a lower age of consent, which he believes should be 14. Underage sex, he is on record as saying, "is mostly consenting, safe, and fun”. But he doesn't mean sex between teenagers; he means between adults and children.

In 1997 he wrote the following letter to the Guardian:

ROS Coward (Why Dares to Speak says nothing useful, June 23) thinks it is “shocking” that Gay Men’s Press has published a book, Dares To Speak, which challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive. I think it is courageous. The distinguished psychologists and anthropologists cited in this book deserve to be heard. Offering a rational, informed perspective on sexual relations between younger and older people, they document examples of societies where consenting inter-generational sex is considered normal, beneficial and enjoyable by old and young alike.

Prof Gilbert Herdt points to the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, where all young boys have sex with older warriors as part of their initiation into manhood. Far from being harmed, Prof Herdt says the boys grow up to be happy, well-adjusted husbands and fathers.

The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.

While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.

Peter Tatchell.