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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All We Need is Love

Yesterday (Tuesday 26th March 2013) the US Supreme Court began their deliberations on whether or not bans on same sex marriage in the US in some states is both legal and constitutional, specifically the case of 'Proposition Eight' or 'Prop 8' as its more widely known. The law in California that denies same sex couples the right to marry. Today (Wednesday 27th March) they will begin to deliberate the Defence of marriage Act. This act denies same sex couples the same rights and mixed sex couples by defining a marriage as between a man and a woman. Neither ruling are expected to be made until sometimes in June, but whilst we wait for these decisions (and very much hope that the right decisions are made) there are still discussions to be had.

My own position on Same sex marriage is very clear. It should be allowed in all cases, in all states, in all countries and for all who want it. Same sex couples should be subject to and benefit from the same benefits and rights as those in marriages who just happen to have two different kinds of genitalia. I can see no good reason why any loving couple should be denied the right to a life together equal to that of heterosexual couples for no reason better than they both happen to be of the same gender.

There are numerous 'arguments' put forth against same sex marriage, a great deal of them religious in basis and quoting the bible as their source for this (Leviticus 20:13 and Genesis  19:1-30 being some of the main stays of the genre), yet this conveniently side steps the fact that even those who are religiously inclined side step parts of the bible that by virtue of being somewhere in the region of 3000 years old in the case of the Old Testament, no longer fit in with life in the 21st century. It is a clear cut case of religion being used as an excuse for very earthly prejudices and intolerance. Its worth remembering that in the past Genesis 9:25-27 was used as justification for Slavery, yet there is no one (or very few) who would seriously suggest that Slavery should be brought back on religious grounds. Opposition to Same sex marriage is a prime example of how religion can be used to promote intolerance and give it a veneer or respectability. Thankfully there are a growing number of individuals of all religious persuasions and in a few cases religious denominations and institutions who do not endorse this kind of bigotry and equality, but unfortunately many of the more powerful and institutionalized religions (I'm looking at you Catholicism and Islam and Judaism) are openly homophobic and other smaller fundamentalist churches share this view point.

And do you know what? I do not understand it. I genuinely do not understand why people have such a problem with the idea of two people who love each other marrying. When you strip it down to its most base points it just seems so ...petty. Because if same sex couples are allowed to marry it does not 'violate natural law'. Homosexuality is not a choice, its just who some people are, a quirk of evolution in the same way that some of us have blue eyes, or red hair or are double jointed, or can run really fast or like Brussels sprouts. Same Sex marriage It does not 'offend God because either like me you don't believe in God in the first place or if you do believe in God you remember that He also told you to 'Love your Neighbour as your self' and that includes your next door neighbour with the same sex partner, or blue eyes or even the one that likes sprouts. But either way lets not pretend that it offends anyone but you.

There is the argument that same sex marriages can't produce children, but a lot of heterosexual marriages (for a variety of reasons) don't either. Plus despite what the likes of Pope Francis might say Same Sex couples adopting does not 'discriminate against children' . It offers children without families the chance to be part of a warm, nurturing and loving domestic unit. A family.

And that is the crux of the same sex marriage debate in my eyes. Why in a world where there is so much hate, so much sadness, so much hardship, would we deny people the rights and equalities of being married to the person they love? Why when we live in a world where children are stolen from their beds and forced to kill or be killed are people so offended that same sex couples might take children who find themselves alone in this world into their families and give them a loving and secure upbringing? And at its most basic level why the hell do we even care? It is an issue that should it become enshrined in law will affect exactly none of those who oppose it. Their lives will not change. The only thing that will change is that marriage equality will be extended to all regardless of their sexual orientation. There will be a bit more love in the world. And surely that cannot be a bad thing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

She had it coming...

Two days ago two sixteen year old high school footballers were convicted of the rape of a sixteen year old girl. What should have been seen as a case of justice being served and perpetrators punished has instead highlighted the issues that still seem to face women and the stigma and appropriation of blame when it comes to sexual assaults.

The girl in question, was apparently drunk, very drunk. By all accounts unconscious. And this, according to a frightening number of internet commentators seems to be a good enough reason to basically excuse these boys of all blame and plant that blame firmly on the door of the victim. The fact that these two boys were footballers, possibly good enough to have promising careers in the game seems to have compounded the 'blame the victim' culture in this case. Much has been made of how their lives have been ruined at such a young age. In fact CNN, a broadcaster that I have erstwhile admired, aired an exchange between two female journalists, Candy Crawley (a journalist whom I have always liked and respected) and Poppy Harlow, which waxed lyrical and the fate of the these 'poor' boys with scant regard for the victim, in fact she was hardly mentioned. Twitter has been abuzz with people expressing their opinion on the case. The girl has been labelled a slut, a drunk, a whore. There have been accusations that she consented and later cried rape out of embarrassment. At this point I should also point out that the 'poor' boys who perpetrated this horrible crime took photographs of the victim which they shared with their friends.

The Steubenville rape case highlights a very disturbing trend and one which highlight the real issues we, as women still face in the pursuit of equality. Sexual crimes are still a matter if stigma, they are still a crime where jokes are made, elbows are nudged and where the victim is the one who is violated time and time again after the initial assault.

And this is true in all manner of cases. An example from earlier in the week, a Facebook group of which I am member had posted upon it an article about a female police officer being groped whilst at work. Cue a number of juvenile, frat house jokes about whether her boobs were any good and letting her frisk them etc etc. When I and another female member of the group pointed out that sexual assault is no laughing matter we were labelled as 'militant feminists', 'pains in the ass' and as having 'no sense of humour'.  Obviously on the sliding scale of sexual assaults this is on the less serious end but highlights perfectly the lack of respect with which crimes against women are often treated and displays a stunning lack of understanding of how, even relatively unserious assaults can impact on their victims.

Regardless of the severity of the assault there seems always to be an unending stream of people (some of them shockingly and despairingly women) who are willing to make excuses for either the crime itself or those who commit them. In the Steubenville case, people blame the victim's inebriation, her dress, her attitude, her reputation, hell one of the defence attorneys even went on Piers Morgan to blame the crime on the fact his client's brain was not sufficiently developed. In the case I talk about above someone went so far as to state that because the victim of the groping was a Vietnamese traffic Police Officer that she was automatically guilty of being corrupt and therefore deserved it. Even in the horrific case in India where a woman and her male companion boarded a bus where she was beaten, gang raped and later died of the horrific injuries she sustained, a religious leader was quick to use the victim's perceived lack of piety coupled with the inebriated state of her attackers to excuse their actions and place the blame on the victim.

The question is why is there this skewed view when it comes to sexual assaults? Why are some people so afraid to place the blame where it belongs? Why is the victim that often the one that ends up on trial?

Statistics across the globe support the notion that a vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported, often out of shame or the belief that they will be somehow blamed. Even at the highest level sexual assault is often not treated with the gravity it deserves. Todd Aiken a republican nominee for the Senate in the 2012 election made world news with his comments about 'legitimate rape' whilst his colleague Richard Mourdock made the comment that pregnancy that resulted from rape were 'something that God intended'. Presumably those who think like this have not yet figured out that their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are women.

Rather than debating nuances such as the victim's attire or her mental state or her sobriety or her past the message on rape and sexual assault should be this. If she says no, its rape, if she can't consent, its rape, if she tries to fight you off, its rape, if she's wearing a short skirt or a low cut top, or both its not the same as consenting, if she is judgement impaired then that's not consent. We should not have to teach our daughter that she should act in a certain way if she wants to be avoid being sexually assaulted, but we should be teaching our sons how you should treat women. There should be no lamenting of opportunities lost for those convicted of raping a 16 year old girl in Ohio, regardless of their wasted potential. Whilst they may legally be children at sixteen they are old enough to understand the concept of right and wrong, of criminality and of basic human decency. They made a choice and their actions have, very rightly so, had consequences. Yet I can't help but think its the victim who's life has been ruined here and that seems to be a point that a lot of people are missing.