Bulletin 99: Spring 2000

In this issue:

Annual Conference
Book Review: Why do they do that?
Children’s Society
News in brief
Parents: personæ non gratæ
Parental disipline
Section 28
Whose democracy?

Annual Conference

Saturday 17 June 2000
The Royal Air Force Club
128 Piccadilly, London W1
10.30 am for 10.45 to 5 pm

It is our privilege to announce that The Rt Hon the Baroness Young DL has kindly agreed to address the conference. She is a devoted and courageous champion of the family and became a Sponsor of the Family Education Trust in 1996. She has been at the forefront of the fight against the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual acts from 18 to 16. More recently, she led and won debates in the House of Lords to retain Section 28 thereby reflecting the opinion of the vast majority of the population. This year she will address the important question Where do we go from here?, an important theme as we enter into the twenty-first century.

Dr Trevor Stammers, Tutor in General Practice at St George’s Hospital Medical School, is the author of several books on family health issues and is a regular broadcaster on the many aspects of family crisis and health. He is a Trustee of Family Education Trust and will speak on ‘Sexual Spin – fact and fantasy in sex education.

This promises to be an important and richly rewarding day. Do come.

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Book Review

Why do they do that? – Understanding teenagers, Nick Pollard, Lion 1998, ISBN 07450- 3760-8. Available from HQ, price £7.00 including p&p.

This is a brilliant book. In less than 150 pages Pollard condenses his considerable understanding of the pressure on teenagers in a post-modern culture. After an introduction on the difficulties of communicating with teenagers, he devotes a chapter each to drugs, despair, body image and sex. A survey of how changing culture and philosophy have moulded the teenage mindset follows and the book concludes with practical suggestions as to how parents can tackle issues such as being positively critical, dealing with boredom, helping in the search for community and coping with pain. I learned a lot to help me in relating to my own young teenagers and have already loaned my copy to others. Get one and do the same. Trevor Stammers


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Children’s Society and ‘Gay’ adoption

Following the news in summer 1999 that The Children’s Society had proposed lifting the ban on homosexual couples adopting children we wrote to express our concern.

We suggested that a realistic understanding of the risks to health of homosexual practice should be a consideration when placing children for adoption. We believed it unlikely that homosexual partners would fully explain the health risks of their practices to their adoptive children, or tell them that heterosexual sex was the norm. Further, since the associates of homosexual parents were also apt to be disproportionately homosexual, the children would live in an alternative home and social environment which would set them apart, rather than giving them the opportunity to integrate into the balanced and stable family life that conventional parents would provide.

Ian Sparks, Director of the Society, replied saying that there was little research on adoption by gay or lesbian people but what little there was had been considered by the Trustees who decided that children did not appear to suffer. He maintained that the Society was not promoting equal rights but that the children with whom they worked had been failed by their own families: ‘though other married couples are willing to foster or adopt them they do not have the skill to deal with the children who have sometimes quite complex needs and traumatic backgrounds’. ‘Their needs’, he said, ‘must not be prejudiced by our preconceptions.’

We requested reputable evidence that homosexual partners possessed special skills which married couples did not have. The answer was that no assertion had been made of homosexual skills in general but that ‘there are a range of people across the community who do have the skills to deal with these particular children and that distribution of skills is irrespective of matters such as employment record, disability or sexuality’. The Children’s Society, we were told, had received many letters expressing concern. These had been put before their Trustees who, ‘whilst mindful of the range of views’ decided not to reconsider their policy. Mr Sparks, therefore, declined to answer our particular points but hoped we would support the Society. We said that we could not do so.

Dr Jack Dominion, psychiatrist and marriage expert, writes on the subject of children growing up in homosexual unions:

‘I have grave doubts about the so-called normality of these children. Undoubtedly they are fed, clothed and looked after in the same way as they would be in heterosexual families, and are equally cognitively developed; but I am anxious about their emotional and sexual orientation. A 20-year span of growing up in a one-sex home is likely, in my opinion, to distort gender identification, and the foundations laid down may produce problems in later life. I do not think it is right to put children through such experi-ments for the sake of adults.” The Tablet, 12.2.00.

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News in brief

Condom promotion and promiscuity: Researchers from the Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, University College, London, found that promotion of condom use had little or no effect on HIV epidemics. Policies promoting use of condoms could encourage greater sexual activity and lead to more cases of condom failure and greater exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Fear of disease, on the other hand, led to safer strategies of partner selection and fewer partners. Dr Richens of the Department, said ‘There is much preliminary evidence that sexual behaviour does respond in this way. We believe that those who plan and implement interventions in sexual health should actively look for this phenomenon and deal with it’. PA News, 28.1.00, ex Lancet.

Comment: The essential point is that in teaching only the mechanics of sex, the teaching is bound to imply that those procedures, like eating or excreting, are acts performed only for the physical pleasure and relief they provide. Unhappily the sex education elite of our society are at a loss to know what social context and emotional significance to give human relations. By default they invest those relations with less dignity than we give to pairing birds. They invest them with no dignity at all.

Sex Education, a job for parents: An overwhelming majority of teachers (nine out of ten) believe that parents should take primary respons-ibility for their children’s sex education. This finding came from new research carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and IPPR as the government attempted to legislate on what children should learn in school about marriage and morality. A spokesman for ATL said the survey showed that teachers would welcome greater clarity about “where their role ends and that of parents begins”. PA News, 25.3.00

Teenage intelligence: Data on about 12,000 adolescents revealed that intelligence was a major factor in teenage sexual activity. Those at the higher end of the IQ scale (intelligence score of 120-130) were most likely to postpone sexual activity including kissing and light petting. Clever adolescents focussed on good exam results and going to university. Teenagers at the lower end of the IQ scale also delayed sexual contact. Dr Carolyn Halpern of the University of North Carolina, who led the study, believed that parents or guardians tended to shield these youngsters. It was those of ‘average’ intelligence (score of 100) who were most likely to be sexually active. Daily Telegraph, 1.3.00.

Youth projects help cut crime: A recent report from The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) claimed that after-school holiday and sports activities and community projects were an effective way of diverting youngsters from drug abuse and crime. Projects included introducing youngsters to new activities such as music or art, giving them access to sports, helping them find jobs, improving their education and tackling drug, alcohol and health issues. In some areas local crime had been cut by up to 75%. NACRO said that the cost of running courses was £165 to £440 a year per participant compared with the £2,300 cost of a young person committing a single crime. Helen Edwards, NACRO’s chief executive, said that this approach could ‘do more to reduce crime than any number of changes in sentencing or penal policy’. PA News, 13.3.00

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Neo-traditionalism: the return to chastity

After recent news that French teenagers were to be freely supplied with the morning after pill in schools it is surprising to learn that a new sexual revolution appears to be brewing across the channel. Teenagers are saying ‘no’ to the liberal sexual attitudes prevalent in France. Sexual conservatism is in fashion. Many are waiting until their twenties before having sex and the number of marriages is expected to jump by 70% this year. Astonishingly sex educators and AIDS groups are castigating this return to chastity as evidence of gross ignorance of the ‘virtues’ of safe sex. They have convinced the French government to launch a new nationwide sex education programme to persuade teenagers to return to the ‘norm’ of sexual promiscuity.

Chastity is also making a comeback in Canada. Abstinence Educators Network said that it was young people who were carrying the message of abstinence to teachers and school administrators. Teachers too were realising that a new approach was needed after the failures of the last 25 years. As in France, the only people not catching on were the government agencies: their bizarre response suggests that they are more committed to promoting a particular sexual ideology than educating teens about the risks of casual sex.

Articles in the Journal of the Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada concluded in 1993/1994 that comprehensive sex education programs were not effective in reducing STDs and teenage pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement urging physicians to ‘encourage adolesc-ents to postpone early coital activity and promote abstinence’.

Abstinence programmes piloted in some American states have also met with success. High school teacher, Tracy Casale of Charletson SC says ‘despite peer pressure . . . teenagers overwhelmingly choose celibacy when given the facts about how casual sex can harm them’. CNS News.14.2.00. Cornelia Oddie

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Parents – personæ non gratæ

From time to time, parents who have smacked their children and been intimidated by local authorities send us documents which are alarming in their officiousness.

For example, a form applying to all education employees, whatever their role and responsibilities, outlines the procedure to be followed in conjunction with Area Child Protection Committee procedures. It says:

‘You are not expected to be a child abuse ‘expert’. . . you do not need to be absolutely sure that what you have seen or heard is child abuse before acting . . . it is not your responsibility to tell parents/carers of your concern . . . investigate the possibility of abuse, or pre-empt a referral and proper investigation by doing any of the above’.

It goes on: ‘You must therefore, follow these procedures at all times and in all situations where there is any possibility of child abuse. If in doubt share your concern’. But not apparently with parents/carers.

Indeed a heading When to tell Parents/Carers states: ‘If a perpetrator becomes alerted to the fact that the authorities are concerned about the possibility of child abuse a successful investigation becomes difficult, if not impossible. Therefore no discussion of the concerns should take place with parents/carers, whether or not they are under suspicion, unless the Directorate of Personal Services says it may’.

Thus, denied any possibility of clearing their name, parents are assumed to be guilty. Yet when alle-gations are subsequently dropped, the stigma remains with them. As one young mother, who was conditionally discharged for smack-ng her child on the bottom in a shop after repeated warnings, said: ‘The police and social services investigation had a terrible effect on myself and also my daughter: our lives were shattered by the unfair process we were dragged through’.

Another disturbing feature is the extent to which the authority and control of parents is undermined with letters from childcare authorities sent direct to children in the parental home. Children aged one, six and eight from one family each received letters informing them that a children’s hearing was to be held on a given date. The letters stated: ‘you have a right to attend the hearing, and it is very important for you to be there. . . If you do not come to the hearing we may arrange for you to be brought. You may be kept in a place of safety until the next hearing can be arranged . . . if you do not understand this form you may get free help from a solicitor’.

How children of these ages could respond to this without parental help, is beyond belief. Still under surveillance by social workers after 18 months for having smacked a recalcitrant daughter on the bottom, the parents were shattered by this intervention which clearly undermined their authority in the home. Yet they would be held responsible if their children did not attend the hearing.

Valerie Riches

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Parental discipline

The UK government’s long awaited consultation document, Protecting Children, Supporting Parents, about the physical punishment of children has now been published. From this it can be seen that the government has has already made up its mind that there is a ‘need’ to change the law. They have based this decision on the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement of an extreme case of a seriously dysfunctional family and only to this particular case, not to existing UK legislation .

In view of the powerful influence that the children’s rights lobby has on the government, it is very important that as many people as possible make their opinions known. Excellent guidelines on how to proceed are available from Families First, 173, Frinton Road, Kirby Cross, Frinton-on-Sea. Essex CO13 OPD, or from HQ. 50p will cover the cost.

The Consultation ends on 21 April so there is not much time left to get the document from the Department of Health, Room 122, Wellington House, 133-153 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UG (telephone: 1071 072 4628). Nevertheless, letters from concerned parents and others should be sent just the same. Those who have read The Fight for the Family, by Lynette Burrows, will understand the need for urgent action. Copies are available from HQ, price £5.

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Secton 28

Members in England took their part in informing a large number of Peers about the protection which Section 28 should provide children against the presentation of homosexual relationships as normal and other family types comparable with marriage. The booklet Bankrolling Gay Proselytising was sent to them with a list of Peers to whom to write, thus ensuring that all named Peers received letters. Baroness Young told us that the flood of well-reasoned letters had an enormous influence on the majority vote to retain the clause. Letters do count.

Misleading claims about the ‘injustice’ of Section 28 continue to be published by politicians, local authorities, children’s groups, and homosexual activists. The Terrence Higgins Trust claims that ‘Section 28 and the unequal age of consent enshrine homophobia as laws that damage the health of gay people physically, mentally and emotionally’. A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities believes that ‘the repeal of Section 28 will help in the fight against homophobic bullying . . . ’

Section 28 does not prohibit the rational discussion of homosexuality in the classroom. Nor does it hinder homosexual young men from receiving health information and confidential medical treatment. Given the small minority of the homosexual population (between one and two per cent), overwhelmingly more children are bullied for other reasons than homophobia. Bullying is to be deplored and countered no matter who is being bullied.

A compromise made between some church leaders and the government on guidelines to replace Section 28 was, in our opinion, unsupportable as it would legalise the promotion of homosexuality in order to promote marriage in schools. Thankfully, this was rejected by the Lords in the debate on March 23.

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Whose democracy?

Homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of Outrage! has resigned from the Labour Party in protest against the ‘rigging’ (his word) of the London Mayoral selection as an abuse of the democratic process. (PA News, 23.2.00)

With an eye to the future Tatchell has set out an agenda for reform. Apart from lowering the age of consent for homosexual activity to 16 and the repeal of Section 28, he wants homosexual sex in saunas, public lavatories and ‘cruising’ to be legalised. A concerted effort by homosexual lobbies to remove all legislative restrictions upon homosexual activity is relentless and includes the adoption and fostering of children, access to artificial insemination and the right to marry. The general public still shows considerable opposition to these measures. It would therefore reflect Tatchell’s new found democratic sensibilities if he stopped campaigning for his outrageous re-forms and responded to the views of the people.

There is no time for complacency in the present climate. We have seen again and again that people can get used to anything, including practices that would have sickened a previous generation, as long as those practices are introduced gradually and under suitable euphemisms such as ‘equality’, ‘human rights and ‘choice’.

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