22.06.1998

Into the hands of paedophiles

Into the hands of paedophiles
 
The House of Commons is today expected to pass a change in the law governing homosexual relations. Lynette Burrows finds the measure naive
 
IT IS the juxtaposition of the two that should alert us to danger. Seeking to lower the age of homosexual consent to 16 and, at the same time, sponsoring an amendment to legalise homosexual group sex, Dr Evan Harris no doubt thinks he is equalising the position between heterosexuals and homosexuals while removing outdated, discriminatory laws.
 
However, even with so modest an aim, the Liberal Democrat MP is naive. According to Sigma, the leading academic research study into homosexual behaviour, the defining activity of homosexuals is buggery, or anal intercourse, and 92 per cent of the men in the study engaged in it. However, buggery between a consenting man and woman, even in private, is still technically illegal, even though it is legal for men. The innocent observer might think this very strange, but the law exists so that it may be invoked, if required, to protect women. Practically speaking, it can be activated only if someone complains.
 
The same can be said of group sex. Dr Harris said on the BBC last week that it was outrageous that the police could come into a private house and arrest men who might be engaging in sex with a few friends. However, innocent as this scenario sounds, it is not an accurate picture of the sort of activity the law seeks to prevent. A policeman going down Acacia Avenue is not going to decide to raid number 129 on the off-chance of finding men engaging in group sex. In a normal social setting it would be impossible to prove unless someone complained, or there was evidence of criminal activity. It is a false and misleading example.
 
The law exists to prevent the commercial exploitation of group sex such as is commonplace in Holland. The current proposals will have the effect of taking us down the same road as the Dutch, whose liberal laws allow boys of 16 to work in the
sex industry. They can advertise them too, particularly to their older customers in clubs, who leaf through albums of naked boys and select the ones they want, like objects in a mail-order catalogue.
 
These poor, often homeless, boys are no match for their exploiters, as a film by Network One on ITV last year made clear. The Boy Business described how they are picked up in arcades and squats in England, and taken off to Holland, where a mixture of drug dependence and terror keeps them virtually enslaved while they make money for their pimps.
 
The paedophile sex industry is very big business in Holland and the lucrative trade in photographs and videos of young boys, for a worldwide paedophile market, is a magnet for men who specialise in staged group sex. It is a horrifying example of human degradation, as is the fact that English paedophiles — scores of whom have settled in Holland because of its laws — will, if this Bill is passed, not need to move at all.
 
No doubt the Dutch did not pass their liberal laws in order to provide a nice little earner for the pornography trade. No doubt they, like us, were assailed by arguments about how unjust it was to prosecute young boys who might want to have sexual relationships with one another; and did not pause to think that they have never heard of such a case and that it would be impossible to establish the fact of a sexual relationship unless one of them boasted of it, or complained.
 
Boys have the advantage in this respect, of not being suspected of homosexual leanings unless they choose to make it plain. Unlike heterosexual couples of the same age, they are allowed by their parents to go camping together and to share bedrooms without suspicion or interference. They are far more free than young heterosexuals to pursue a sexual relationship if they wish, provided they are discreet. This is no bad thing. The Wellings study, the largest UK study, and sympathetic to homosexuals, produced in 1994, found that of the 35 per cent of men who had ever had a same-sex sexual partner, usually in their youth, half had never repeated the behaviour with another man.
 
Until now, the law has upheld parents' concern for the well-being of their children in relation to older men, to whom their youth and adolescent confusion present opportunities for exploitation. When I think of my own four boys, who were slender and beardless for four years beyond the age of 16, I know that the law was right to protect them. I simply cannot believe that a government in which there are so many mothers, headed by a family man such as Tony Blair, cannot sympathise with parental concerns in this matter.
 
The Dutch, who legislated as we are preparing to do, were almost certainly unaware that Holland would become the paedophile centre of Europe. We have no such excuse. We have both the highest divorce and illegitimacy rates in Europe and we know what can happen to vulnerable boys whose fathers have disappeared. These boys, impoverished and ill-educated, are thrown on to a world for which they are ill equipped. Many will be glad to find men who seem to offer protection. If we provide this opportunity for them under the law of unintended consequences, we will be laying the foundations of a despicable trade.