The Witchfinder examines former Labour Party official and Parliamentary candidate Peter Tatchell’s policy positions over the last few years. Despite the rhetoric about protecting children, in the detail we find Tatchell has all too much in common with the sinister PIE agenda, albeit with a less extreme policy set. The Witchfinder calls for Tatchell’s beliefs to be identified – not feted by the left, and for him to be cast out of British public life. Rights campaigning must not be confused or blurred with the legitimisation of abuse no matter how well meaning or sympathetically presented.
Before we get into Peter Tatchell’s beliefs it is necessary to make some things clear. Whatever Tatchell has in common with PIE, he was never (as far as the Witchfinder can determine) a member. The infamous photo of Tatchell holding a PIE sign is a fake.
However, whilst the picture is fake, it does appear there are some similarities between Tatchell, OutRage! and PIE’s policy positions. Despite their protests OutRage! and Tatchell seem to hold watered down versions of some of the key policy positions held by the sinister paedophile ‘rights’ activist group, although they profess different motives.
Tatchell has described his own views in slightly different terms over the years, but the essence of them (from the most recent statement his assistant sent me) is that he advocates –
a general reduction in the age of consent to 14
a general policy of non-prosecution of sexual activity with perhaps even younger people provided that there was a closeness in their age ranges, consent and no harm. Tatchell expressly states that this could include people of 13 or younger
The text from his 2012 statement is quoting a 2010 speech and says –
Given that most young people now start having sexual relations around the age of 14, an age of consent of 14 might be more realistic and reasonable. If sex at 14 is consensual, and no one is hurt or complains, is criminalisation in the public interest? Is it in the 14-year-old’s interest?
Another option would be to introduce a tiered age of consent, where under-age sex would cease to be prosecuted, providing both partners consent and there is no more than, say, two or three years difference in their ages. This tiered age of consent exists in Italy, Switzerland and Israel. It is designed to prevent the criminalisation of younger people of similar ages, while protecting the vulnerable from possible manipulation by those much older.
This is pretty much the same as the earlier policy promoted by OutRage! and quoted in Peter Tatchell’s interview with a sexually active 14 year old boy.
The idea of a sliding-scale age of consent is something that OutRage! is promoting. In addition to supporting an age of consent of 14 for everyone (gay and straight), OutRage! argues that sex involving young people under 14 should not be prosecuted providing both partners consent and there is no more than three years difference in their ages.
The example used in his 2001 Guardian article was Romeo and Juliet, who Tatchell suggests were 14 and 13, respectively. Of course readers should remember that Romeo and Juliet both ended up dead. Tatchell has repeated these proposals on his own site as recently as 2012.
These ideas are, at their kindest, hopelessly naïve. The effect of the law change he advocates would be to make it legal, for example, for a 50 year old man to have sex with a 14 year old schoolgirl. As they are now with 16 year olds, social services would be forced to condone and protect the girl’s right to choose – no matter the potential power imbalance or risk of exploitation.
The second proposal is vaguer, (perhaps because a detailed discussion of its implications would be inflammatory). Let us examine them. In 1997 Tatchell published an interview with a 14 year old boy called, ‘Lee’. I quote – “At the age of 11, Lee had a relationship with a 14 year old named Andrew” and “My first gay sex was with a friend from school called John. I was eight and half. He was the same age.”
The precise limits Tatchell proposes are unclear as is the lower age limit proposed.
Tatchell says he is against paedophilia. However, s9 Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines ‘Sexual activity with a child’ as sexual activity with a person under 16. For the purposes of most UK sex laws a ‘child’ is anyone under 16. So what he proposes would as a matter of strict fact legalise activities that are presently classed as paedophilia. As a matter of strict fact, Tatchell therefore advocates the legalisation of some paedophile activity.
The difference between Tatchell and PIE is that instead of reducing the age of consent by 6 years he proposes reducing it by 2 as well as the vaguely defined second proposal. Tatchell finds examples such as ‘Lee’ of young people who propose that under-age sex can be a positive experience.
The picture of Peter Tatchell holding a PIE Placard is fake. The photoshopped caption says ‘NOT ALL SEX INVOLVING CHILDREN IS UNWANTED’. Tatchell says it is libellous. But he has expressed that very same view both himself and through the examples he has chosen. In the interview, ‘Lee’ said, ‘I liked it a lot. It was great.’
Not only does Tatchell say repeatedly in terms that that sex between minors is not always unwanted, he wants to enshrine in law the right of those presently defined as children to have sex with persons vastly older. Tatchell never held that sign. But he espoused those beliefs.
The Witchfinder contacted Tatchell and received a response from his personal assistant, ‘James’. James points out that, ‘OutRage! has never advocated that sex with 13 year olds could or should be decriminalised’ . James is quite right. Neither OutRage! nor Tatchell has ever advocated any such belief. James also drew my attention to Tatchell’s clarifying statement, which the Witchfinder duly links to.
What Tatchell advocates is law that would allow 50 year old men to penetrate 14 year olds, and a prosecution policy that would allow a 12 year old to penetrate a 9 year old. The initial response was very prompt so to check I was not being unfair I went back and asked what the lower age limit on the non-prosecution policy might be.
The answer to that question was a single line as follows, ‘Peter has stated his position in the article that I linked to’. I note the age in the interview with ‘Lee’ he talks about a first sexual activity at the age of 8 and a half.
Tatchell’s assistant says that ‘Lee’ never gave his real name, and provided no contact details for his alleged partners. In short it is impossible to check the facts and it was also impossible for Tatchell to verify the facts.
I then sent a draft of this article to Tatchell. Before long I got a lengthy set of what his assistant considers to be ‘balance’ corrections, for example that he proposes that the changes go hand in had with more sex education and help to report abusers and so forth, as though children are not already deluged with such advice in this day and age. No facts were disputed. Not to mention that if the age of consent is reduced young people are likely to get some more ‘practical’ sex education.
The Witchfinder is an ethical journalist and has simply cut and paste the whole response at the end of this article as a ‘right of reply’, cutting out only a half-sentence which unfairly calls critics ‘malicious’ and therefore itself runs a risk of being defamatory. The Witchfinder feels one can oppose reducing the age of consent without being malicious.
So what are we left with? We are certainly not left with an army of sexually frustrated 14-year olds marching on Parliament. The advocates of a lower age of consent are primarily adult men.
Taking their position at its kindest and with the most charity the Witchfinder can offer, Peter Tatchell’s positions on the age of consent are in their core elements weakened versions of PIE’s positions, motivated by naïve liberalism. If they were successful would it stop there? Who knows what the next ‘reform’ asked for might be?
Peter Tatchell is not a paedophile. He was never in PIE. However, he does want to legalise some sexual activity with minors (i.e. Paedophile activity), he has said and does say (as the fake PIE sign did) that not all under age sex is unwanted. The policies he proposes would make it legal to have sex with those the law presently deems to be children.
The views of Tatchell and others of his ilk may be well intentioned but they play directly into the hands of very real paedophiles, some of whom (unlike Tatchell) doubtless have a very real agenda of abusing every child they can get their hands on. Making it legal will not help.
The proposal to reduce the age of consent is nothing to do with gay rights, or lesbian rights, or transgender rights or intersex rights. It applies as much to white heterosexuals as anyone else. One can be for LGBTI rights (or indifferent) whilst still opposing legislative changes that will open the floodgates for predators.
Accordingly, Peter Tatchell has no place in public life, whether in Britain or anywhere else in the world.
Right of Reply from Peter Tatchell
(The Witchfinder does not endorse these views)
[SNIP] the public debate I am urging is not about adults having sex with children. Child sex abuse is wrong. Full stop. I do not, and never have, endorsed the sexual abuse of children by adults. What I am talking about is sexual relations between young people of similar ages.Any review of the law should be premised on four aims. First, protecting young people against sex abuse. Second, empowering them to make wise, responsible sexual choices. Third, removing the legal obstacles to earlier, more effective sex education. Fourth, ensuring better contraception and condom provision to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions and to cut the spread of infections like HIV and hepatitis B and C.If we want to protect young people, and I do, the best way to do this is not by threatening them with arrest, but by giving them frank, high quality sex and relationship education from an early age – before they become sexually active and before they develop unwise habits like unsafe sex. This early-years education should aim to empower them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to say no to unwanted sexual advances and to report sex abusers. For a nation that professes to be concerned about child sex abuse, it is truly shocking that so few schools educate their pupils about abuse issues. This needs to change.Compared to the blanket criminalisation of sexually-active under-age youth, this empowerment strategy is a more effective way to protect young people from peer pressure and sex abusers.The issue is not whether the under-16s should have sex – I do not advocate early sexual activity – but whether they should be criminalised for consensual behaviour.The current of consent of 16 may make abuse more likely by reinforcing the idea that young people under 16 don’t have any sexual rights. It signals that no one below the lawful age is capable of making a rational, moral choice about when to have sex. This sexual disempowerment plays into the hands of adults who want to abuse them. Abusers exploit many young people’s lack of assertion of their sexual human rights, which includes their right to reject undesired sex.Guilt and shame about sex also increase the likelihood of molestation by encouraging the furtiveness and secrecy on which abuse thrives. The sex-negative mentality that sees sex as something private that should be kept out of sight plays into the hands of child sex abusers.One way to protect young people against unwanted sexual advances is by promoting sex-affirmative attitudes that challenge the idea that sex is something sordid that should be kept hidden. Sexually unashamed young people are more likely to report abusers.Another way is by empowering teenagers to stand up for their sexual rights, including both the right to say yes to sex they want and the right to say no to sex they don’t want. Sexually informed and confident youngsters are much more likely to resist unwanted sexual advances.However, any lowering of the age of consent needs to go hand-in-hand with candid, compulsory sex education in schools, beginning with age-appropriate teaching from the first year of primary school. Then, from the age of 12, before they become sexually active, pupils should be given explicit advice on how to deal with sex pests, negotiate safer sex and sustain fulfilling relationships based on mutual consent and respect.Criminalisation is dangerous because it can inhibit young people from seeking safer sex advice and condoms. It makes some youngsters afraid to report sexually abusive relationships. They fear getting into trouble because they have broken the law. Reducing the age of consent to 14 would remedy these problems, at least for those aged 14 and older.An age of consent higher than the typical age of first sexual experience also discourages some teachers and youth workers from giving upfront sexual information to those under the lawful age of consent. They fear being prosecuted by the police, or sued by disgruntled parents, for aiding and abetting unlawful sexual acts. So they don’t provide the necessary facts. Withholding sexual welfare advice is not protection. It is a form of child abuse.