A Lesson in Abstinence

Allegory of Chastity, by Hans Memling (1475, oil on wood)

Early Wednesday afternoon, when Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, moved to introduce a Bill to ‘require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes’, she set alight to the feminist blogosphere (See here, here, here, and here, for examples).

Central to the feminist criticism is the clear gender asymmetry contained in the proposal, as immediately pointed out by her detractor Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda (a transcription of the debate is to be found here). ‘For a start, the Bill is just about girls,’ complained Bryant, ‘I am not an expert, but it seems axiomatic to me that if we want to tackle teenage pregnancy, we have to talk to the boys and the girls.’ Continue reading “A Lesson in Abstinence”

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The Prisoner Dilemma

It is an issue that has been brewing for almost a decade now, since prisoner John Hirst first had his case dismissed by Britain’s High Court in April 2001, and, because in November 2010 the Council of Europe gave Britain six months to bring themselves into alignment with the judgements of the Strasbourg Courts, the question is now on everybody’s lips: Should prisoners be allowed to vote?

Back in March 2004, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that a blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners, irrespective of crime or sentence, was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. By the time of the 2010 elections, the British government had failed to materially respond to these rulings, but now Europe has mounted pressure to change – forcing the new Conservative government to tread carefully the line of avoiding in the future paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to prisoners while still keeping sweet the Conservative supporters who want to see Europe’s power over policy in Britain lessened. Continue reading “The Prisoner Dilemma”