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Saturday 23 June 2001
We are delighted to announce the programme for this year's annual conference and annual general meeting, which will be held, as usual, at the RAF Club in Piccadilly. We have an exciting panel of speakers: Professor Robert Rowthorne of Cambridge University will be speaking on public policy and the family, with particular reference to fiscal policy and divorce law; Nick Pollard will be speaking on the subject of his excellent book Why Do They Do That? Understanding Teenagers; and Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Leader of Kent County Council, will be speaking on the curriculum which is being drawn up for schools in Kent, emphasising marriage, patriotism and spiritual values.
The Family Law Act 1996
The massive increase in divorce, which has occurred in the past thirty years and has given us the highest rate in Europe, is at the centre of the breakdown of marriage and of our social and moral decay. The Family Law Act, 1996 was an attempt to reform the divorce laws, and the recent announcement by the Lord Chancellor that the main provisions of the Act are not to be brought into operation is therefore of very great significance.
The present divorce law (Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973) is unsatisfactory. Although it appears to retain some fault grounds, it is in reality 'no fault' divorce; but also with much bitterness involved. It is quick and impersonal, and gives insufficient attention to the children.
The 1996 Act had an unpromising gestation period, with the Law Commission appearing to favour quick, no fault divorce, and Lord Mackay appearing to concentrate on taking the heat out of the process by introducing mediation. However, defenders of the Act saw it as a means of supporting marriage by reducing the divorce rate; and eventually the first principle was established 'that the institution of marriage is to be supported'.
In summary, the virtues of the 1996 Act were that proceedings were to start with an information session; there was then to be a 'cooling off' period of three months; a statement of marriage breakdown could then be filed; after a further period it could be certified that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, but only if arrangements for the children and for the finances had been concluded. Issues of conduct were to be considered during ancillary proceedings in chambers. Throughout, mediation and reconci-liation were to be encouraged.
It is said that pilot studies have shown that mediation is not the panacea it was thought to be, and this has influenced the decision not to proceed with the main provisions of the Act. Nevertheless, Part III, which provides for mediation, has already been brought into operation.
There should be a Royal Commission on Divorce.
(This article is extracted from Law and Justice by kind permission of the Editor.)
Sex, Lies and Cigarettes
Tasteful. Sensitive. Beautiful. That's what the creators of the new gay advertising campaign say about their posters. On one level I'm inclined to agree with them. The image accompanying the slogan 'Thank God for men', could easily be of two brothers embracing each other. I certainly don't find it at all offensive on the grounds of indecency. But as a doctor with many years of experience in health education, I object to it because it is utterly dishonest. It reminds me of the tasteful, sensitive and beautiful images used in cigarette advertisements, and like them it ought to carry a government health warning.
If the gay lifestyle only consisted of thanking God for other men, that would be fine. However, despite protests to the contrary from gay activists, it is anal intercourse that is central to gay sexual expression. Of course ano-receptive intercourse is an equally dangerous practice for gay men and straight women alike, but it is difficult to consider it as integral to heterosexual union.
This is why anal cancer is now more common in homosexual men than cervical cancer is in women. Indeed it would be true to say that homosexual sex is altering the entire demographics of this disease and several others.
'I had a patient diagnosed with syphilis recently', a colleague from the North of England told me at a conference recently. 'Was he gay?' I ventured. 'How did you know that?' Actually, it wasn't difficult. Even in Holland with its celebrated gay culture and safer-sex education, rates of syphilis quadrupled, and those of gonorrhoea doubled in gay men in 1999. The latest statistics on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK show the same upward pattern here. To try and divert attention from such worrying trends, gay groups are increasingly propagating the myth that AIDS is a more common problem in the straight community. One of the directors of the current advertising campaign tried to push this line in a recent BBC debate. If he is right, why does the National Blood Service prohibit men who have had sex with men - even just once - from donating blood? Only when this presumably irrational policy of discrimination against gay men is abandoned in the UK, will I be inclined to pay more attention to the claims of gay advertising executives.
Alongside the much higher risks of anal cancer and STIs, anal intercourse also involves another excess risk to health in the form of drug abuse. Male homosexuals commonly use amyl nitrate (poppers) to relax the anal sphincter to facilitate intercourse. Viagra is often used with it as a recreational drug - a combination that can kill. Rates of other drug misuse are well known to be far higher in the gay community. In his book State of the Queer Nation gay journalist Chris Woods states: 'the fleeting nature and instability of many gay and lesbian relationships and poorly defined rules of cruising mean that drug consumption. . . . plays an important role in our social habits. Studies have reported that gay men and lesbians are often unable to have sex unless using drugs of some nature…'.
It is no surprise that studies from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia, USA and Canada all unanimously indicate that male homosexual activity leads to a shortened average lifespan - probably of the order of 10%. As far back as 1997 the International Journal of Epidemiology reported: 'although we have revealed that the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men has sustained a tremendous deficit relative to all men, the true effect is likely to be larger because of problems of under-reporting and under-diagnosis of AIDS'.
A few years ago when columnist Anne Atkins courageously drew attention to this fact, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against her saying there was no scientific evidence to support it. Philip Morris still refuses to acknowledge that there is any scientific evidence to support the relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer. Their 1996 advertising campaign, for example, claimed that passive smoking posed a lower risk to health than eating one biscuit a day. The British Medical Journal commented: 'The tobacco industry capitalises on the situation to protect its commercial interests through the promotion and magnification of confusion. The industry is guarded about its real knowledge on the health-damaging effects of smoke and tries to influence opinion through… intimidation of its opponents.' The commercial interests that promote gay sex work in a similar way.
In the 1950s, most doctors were reluctant to accept the evidence linking lung cancer with smoking. This is now generally attributed to wish bias; doctors who smoked wanted to conceal from themselves the fact that their enjoyable habit was damaging their health. Those who didn't smoke did not want to make the smokers feel bad. It usually takes several decades for the truth to emerge from the suffocating blankets of personal compromise and political correctness.
I believe in the freedom of speech for gay and straight alike and this poster should not be banned. However, it only shows the sun shining on two tasteful, sensitive and beautiful boys. The fact that they have a higher risk of premature death remains unmentioned.
Guides Go to the Dogs
The publication by the Guide Association of its Look Wider file towards the end of last year sparked a good deal of controversy in the press. The overall message may be summed up by phrases such as 'do what you want to do' and 'be what you want to be' which are repeated throughout. The traditional view of service has been replaced by direct action, and the words 'marriage', 'husband' and 'wife' are conspicuous by their absence - with the exception of a reference to 'househusbands'. The assumption would appear to be that young women in the Guide Association will all become 'partners'. Not surprisingly, then, sexual relation-ships are all a matter of using a condom, and Senior Section members are encouraged to hold debates on issues such as prostitution and whether same-sex 'marriages' should be legalised. Other suggestions include inviting speakers from the Family Planning Association and the Brook Advisory Centre to advise on contraception and the 'physical and emotional aspects of sexual relationships', and contacting a gay or lesbian advice line to find out about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues.
Sadly, Look Wider marks a continuation of the downward spiral in the Guide Association reflected in an earlier publication. A few months previously, the Guides launched what they termed 'a new peer education resource' entitled Right Directions, consisting of 39 activities designed to raise awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 64-page publication has been ostensibly produced for young people by regional 'peer education teams' of Guides. One of the major recurring themes running through the book is that children are autonomous individuals and possess personal 'choice rights'. Thus the key to learning is said to be 'from each other rather than through formal structures'. The resource claims to be building on the common practice of young people consulting each other rather than professionals. The idea that they might consult their parents or any other family member is not even envisaged.
In line with other children's rights literature, European countries which we are told have passed legislation requiring parents to consult their children are deemed worthy of emulation, though examples of such laws are not given. Similarly, young people are encouraged to campaign for greater influence over what is taught in schools. Demonstrations are suggested as one way of making their voices heard and they are encouraged to think of other ways in which they might make a stand. There is even a discussion on good and bad reasons for leaving home. The one activity that invites young people to list responsibilities corresponding to their rights offers the duty to obey the Highway Code as its only suggestion!
One section lists a number of age-related laws in the UK (e.g. children may not marry under the age of 16) and asks which laws discriminate against the young. Equally, they are invited to think about how our society discriminates against women, gypsies and, of course, gay men and women.
If young people are to be encouraged to make a stand, perhaps a demo against the way in which the current Guide executive is undermining parents and the family unit might not be a bad place to start!
News in Brief
The Great Divorce Controversy by Edward S Williams, Belmont House Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0 9529939 3 7, £25.00
This well-researched volume traces the changes in culture and legislation which led England from having the lowest divorce rates in the civilised world during the 18th and 19th centuries to having the highest rate of divorce in Europe at the dawn of the 21st century.
The author, himself an Anglican, laments the way in which his own denomination by stages abandoned biblical principles and accommodated its teaching and practice to the prevailing spirit of the age, guided by sociological theories, psychological opinions and feminist ideology. By means of illuminating summaries and extracts from church and parliamentary debates he documents how the unthinkable became acceptable within a relatively short space of time.
The prophetic voices in parliamentary debates in the early part of the 20th century predicting the damaging consequences of liberalising the divorce laws were regrettably ignored. The passing of time has shown that the views of those who claimed that the relaxation of marriage laws would 'enhance public respect for the institution of marriage' and 'discourage extramarital relation-ships' were manifestly ill-founded. A former Director of Public Health, Dr Williams draws on reputable studies which suggest a correlation between marital breakdown and all manner of social and psychological ills. He also refers to the growing body of research which explodes the myth that a 'good divorce' is better than a 'bad marriage' as far as the children are concerned.
Not all readers of the Bulletin will be in agreement with Dr Williams' position on the indissolubility of marriage and its implications for the remarriage of divorcees. However, there can be no argument that the advent of 'no-fault' divorce has led to a situation where marriage has been cheapened and has come to be viewed by many as either an outdated institution or merely as a temporary civil contract rather than as a lifelong covenant.
Dr Ambrose John King
Members will be sad to know that Ambrose King, consultant venereologist, and one of the founder members of the Society, died last Autumn. He brought distinction to his department in the London hospital which is named after him. He held many other high offices both in his medical speciality and in his army career during the Second World War, but remained a modest, approachable man. It was his view that a change in behaviour rather than the ready availability of antibiotics would be needed to control sexually transmitted diseases and the other manifestations of sexual liberation - a sentiment which brought together those of us who formed the Society with him.
It was his courtesy to all, regardless of rank or status, which will be remembered most by those who had the privilege to know and enjoy the friendship of this true gentleman - and none more so than Denis and myself.