Tag Archives: Government

Standing up for [some] civil liberties

The Protection of Freedoms Bill is today in its second reading in the Lords. It is, in the words of Nick Clegg, the vehicle by which this government will “restore Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness”. Broadly, it aims to reverse Labour’s appalling 13 years of state sponsored intrusions into our civil liberties.

Within the Bill there are positive proposals on issues such as collection and retention of biometric information, limits on stop and search, the right to trial by jury, and restrictions on surveillance powers. The most widely reported measure is bringing the permanent precharge detention limit down from 28 to 14 days.

These steps are all welcome and needed, but also provide a nice overview of how Labour fundamentally let us down on civil liberties.

There is however, a worryingly long list of Labour policies that are not included in this bill. This Bill would have been the perfect ‘vehicle’ to address the extended administrative detention of nonnationals, redressing the balance between security and freedom found in various counter terrorism measures, the intrusive ‘mosquito’ device which stops youngsters from meeting in public.  Equally, this Bill could have been used to rectify a situation where a Christian cannot wear a discreet cross to work.

This bill is so important in restoring basic standards, but needs to go further. The very fact that we need this bill however should leave any Labour politician or supporter to shame.

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Tackling the “sexualisation of children” has to be balanced with not crushing natural sexual curiosity

Found on coffee tables up and down the country

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published guidelines for tackling the “sexualisation of children” as the Government releases a review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. David Cameron ordered a review by Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, following a series of examples of leading retailers using “sexual or inappropriate” branding on children’s products. The report was entitled “Let children be Children” and can be found here.

Whilst I am sympathetic to the report’s findings, and join the flock of moralists who squawk at the idea of Tesco’s selling padded bras and thongs to under 12’s, I also find the underlying moralistic nature of the argument worrying.

It strikes me that we have a responsibility to protect not just children, but also adults from a soft sexualisation and the objectifying of individuals. As such, I strongly welcome some of the recommendations such as:

  • Make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”
  • Stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”

Yet, I do not feel that simply trying to hide away the sexual nature of adult life until a child turns of age (12,14,16,18?) is an effective strategy.  For example, one of the recommendations was, “Ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media”. The problem in my mind is not children seeking out sexual (and/or political) material. This is a natural process of growing up. The problem rests in the soft, day in day out, objectifying of bodies and relationships.

As cultural dictator of the UK government I would slap restrictions on crass soap opera story lines, ban Rihanna and have a ceremonial burning of all our tabloids. These do great damage to our children’s understanding of identity and relationships.

There is a serious point here, and I do not think the recommendations pick up on it. There is a difference between the slow soft sexualisation of children that leave them with bizarre, unattainable understandings of sex, relationships and (as the review blurred sex and politics so can I) politics and the naturally inquisitive nature of children who are on a path towards adulthood. However you define adulthood, I hope you would agree that it is a process, one that children will start on at a variety of stages.

As such, I am would welcome more liberal access to pornography, but would condemn the “soft core” magazines such as FHM. I know parents who wouldn’t even hesitate at leaving a FHM magazine lying around, but would be horrified at the idea of their child watching porn. As perverse as it seems, I honestly believe the everyday battering of images, sounds and experiences children receive is far more damaging than the over 18 only stuff children purposely seek out.

This report is a big step forward for protecting childhood from the fierce marketing world but it borders dangerously close to ineffective moralistic impositions.

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