Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fighting for your right to party

Okay, I have a good excuse for staying away from the blog for so long. I just polished off my new column for Capital Xtra, which will be published this Tuesday. I will post the link as soon as it's online, along with information about the upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of security certificates. For those in Ottawa, there will be a bunch of people camped out on the lawn of the Supreme Court, many of whom travelled to Ottawa in an activist caravan ... more on that later this week. But in the meantime, here's the link to the folks who are organizing the demonstrations.

But the real reason why I've been so busy this week, is that I have been acting as the spokesperson for Egale Canada, opposing the age of consent legislation that the Conservatives are about to introduce. Now, I've written about this issue before - namely why I think that this legislation is a very bad idea. But this week, I was challenged to defend Egale's position in the face of some pretty heady opposition. As many of you may have heard, Vic Toews is about to introduce a law that would change the age of consent from 14 to 16. Early indications are that the law would include a 5-year close-in-age exemption (so for example, a 20 year-old sleeping with a 15 year-old wouldn't be punished). We think that this is a good thing, but we still have serious concerns about the proposed law.

Now boys -- this is where fighting for your right to party comes in. Did you know that anal sex is still an offense in the criminal code? Yes, what used to be referred to "buggery" is illegal under section 159 of the Criminal Code, unless it takes place between a man and a woman who are married to each other, or if both partners are over 18. Oh, and it must take place "in private," and only 2 people can participate.

Did you know this? Isn't it a terrifying remnant of the age when homosexuality was illegal? And doesn't it seem INSANE that the government is prepared to introduce age of consent legislation that doesn't fix the unconstitutional and discriminatory anal sex law?

So I became the poster gal for anal sex this week. I did interviews with CTV National News, a radio station in Kitchener (that was surprisingly progressive, I must say), Canadian Press, CanWest News Service, and -- my favourite -- a live one-hour call-in show on CPAC.

When I did the CPAC gig this morning, I got to debate representatives from my two favourite religious right groups -- the REAL Women of Canada, and the Focus on the Family-funded Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. I think that I was able to get the message across that the law should be applied equally, regardless of the sexual activity that folks are engaging in. And I also stressed that fact that the arbitrary criminalization of teen sex will do little to prevent predators, and will actually put youth more at risk by driving their relationships underground.

But I will be the first to admit that this is not an easy issue to debate, and that there are many people who would disagree with Egale's position. But I shudder to image a future when people in their early 20s could end up on sex offender registries for participating in consensual sexual relationships with younger teenagers.

None of us like to think about 14 year-olds having sex. But don't we owe young people the opportunity to make good choices, to access the best possible sex education, and to discuss their relationships with trusted adults, without the fear that their partners could get thrown in jail?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG I broke the law last Saturday night... in two different ways! :)