Posted on October 2, 2009
“And I do think it’s time to address a problem that for too long has gone unspoken, the number of children having children. For it cannot be right, for a girl of sixteen, to get pregnant, be given the keys to a council flat and be left on her own.
From now on all 16 and 17 year old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes. These shared homes will offer not just a roof over their heads, but a new start in life where they learn responsibility and how to raise their children properly. That’s better for them, better for their babies and better for us all in the long run.
We won’t ever shy away from taking difficult decisions on tough social questions.”
Gordon Brown 2009
“Concern about the feeble-minded and their multiplying progeny led to the formation in 1896 of the National Association for the Care of the Feeble-Minded. The Association was central to the establishment in 1904 of a Royal Commission. On the basis of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, a joint committee of the Eugenics Society and the Association formulated a Mental Deficiency Bill, enacted in 1913. Only when the feeble-minded were unable to be cared for by relatives or guardians did they become open to incarceration in mental-defective establishments. Such people generally came to a local authority’s attention because they were on the streets ‘without visible means of support’, or were already in institutions. Those in workhouses who were deemed feeble-minded included women ‘in receipt of poor relief at the time of giving birth to an illegitimate child or when pregnant of such child’. As Mary Dendy, leading campaigner in this area, informed the Royal Commission: ‘The first test [of feeble-mindedness] I think is that if a woman comes into the workhouse with an illegitimate child, it should be considered evidence of weakness of mind; there is certainly evidence of lack of moral fibre’. This equation of women’s ‘immorality’ and feeble-mindedness clearly informed the decision as to who was in need of incarceration. Parents or guardians of a defective under twenty-one could petition the local authority; there were cases of young women engaging in underage sex, possibly becoming pregnant, being disowned by their parents, turned out or handed over to the local authority, and defined as feeble-minded by virtue of their immoral activities. In one of Steve Humphries’s recent BBC TV programmes for his series A Secret World of Sex, two women were interviewed who, when young, were sent to mental hospitals under the 1913 Act. Both women had been raped but not believed, and for one of them, Ruth Neale, this had resulted in her bearing an illegitimate child. She is still in mental hospital today. By the time her plight had been discovered years later, after the repeal of the 1913 Act in 1959, she had become institutionalised. There may well have been many such cases, but exact figures are hard to ascertain.
Incarceration for ‘moral deficiency’ was nothing new. So-called ‘wayward girls’ had been locked away in ‘Magdalene Homes’ in Ireland and Scotland for many years, and made to work unpaid in the laundry ‘washing away their sins’. These Homes were run predominantly by Catholic nuns. Lockburn House, the Magdalene Institute in Glasgow, welcomed the Mental Deficiency Act 1913; according to the Institute, many of the young women admitted were ‘hardly responsible for their actions’. Moral deficiency was now being recast in medical terms – the scientific gloss of feeble-mindedness – and eugenics had enabled the transition to a new way of defining ‘waywardness'”
Lucy Bland: Banishing the Beast: English Feminism & Sexual Morality 1885-1914. Chapter 6, Eugenics, the Politics of Selective Breeding and Feminist Appropriation. Pages 241-242
Yes indeed Gordon Brown, if the proposals you outline are passed then 16-17 year old young women (not children as you claim) will be incarcerated in prisons – sorry homes because these young women dared to have a child before they were safely married! But there is one glaring error Gordon – what about the males who impregnated these young women? What will their punishment be? A hearty slap on the back and well done perhaps?
Always but always it is women and girls our patriarchal society controls, polices and oppresses. Magdalene Homes are no different to the ones Gordon and his boys are proposing.
The US too had their own special ‘homes’ for supposedly ‘deviant young women who became pregnant.’ But were the male impregnators punished? Of course not – no accountability, no blaming these men because they were supposedly ‘enacting natural heterosexual male expression.’
‘We won’t ever shy away from taking difficult decisions on tough social questions.”
Oh but you have and are Gordon, you and your cronies shy away from dealing with male violence against women and children, you shy away from discussing the realities of why knife crime is a ‘male issue’ not a ‘societal one.’ You shy away from the complexities of why some young women have children before submitting (sic) to male-defined notions that women should be safely married or ‘owned’ by a male before having a child.
You shy away from the facts that many adult men deliberately engage in sexual activity with a much younger teenage woman. You shy away from the now endemic sexual commodification of women wherein we are all turned into ‘men’s sexualised objects.’ Is this sufficient Gordon – or would you like me to add a few more women-centered social issues you so conveniently ignore.
No I didn’t think so – so stop exploiting and demonising young women who have a child when they are between the ages of 16-17 just so you can hopefully garner a few more ‘traditional, narrow minded, bigotted voters and just perhaps, perhaps win the next election.
Evidently the feeble-minded are still around – they’re in the Labour party.
This is horrendous. Who’m I gonna vote for? Ghostbusters?
No word yet of course, on what is going to happen to the errant sperm donors? Are they going to be put in the workhouse?
It is presumably ok for a 16 year old to have a baby if she is married and “supported” by a man. So essentially they’re just having a go at women for not having been impregnated by a rich enough dude, is that it? If they don’t want 16 and 17 year olds having babies, they should raise the age of consent to 18 and rigorously enforce it.
The government can’t enforce it. The government has limited sanctions – mostly prison, which doesn’t help anyone. What does seem to make a difference (that is a statistical difference; it’s not absolute) are things like ambition, sense of self-worth, and of course, knowledge of and access to contraception.
Raising the age of consent may prevent rapes by predatory men (it’s 18 in California now, as opposed to 16 when Roman Polanksi ….) but it won’t stop fertile young women from having sex if they want to. What we need is for those young women to feel in control of their lives and realise that they can plan when its best to have a baby. The government can certainly facilitate that, but it can’t enforce it. I’m a man, so I’m biased, but I think it would be wrong to criminalise young men who have consensual sex with women in their age-group, which is what I think Poly Styrene is suggesting above.
“which is what I think Poly Styrene is suggesting above.”
I dont think that is what Polly is suggesting at all.
This is about young working class women being punished, put into foyers, supervised and stigmatised, in effect being taken into social care because they have a baby at 16 or 17.
This definitely wont be happening for those well connected middle class young mothers. And yet again, the men, whatever their age, who impregnate these young women walk away, no being taken into care, no supervision orders.
Yet another example of men making policy that is punitive on working class women and exonerating of men.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose
No I was being sarcastic Dave.
Pointing out that it’s a bit stupid for sex to be legal and then describe the people engaging in such sex as children having babies. But god forbid we should tread on the rights of dudes to 16 and 17 year old female bodies eh? Because you jumped in awfully quickly there.
Clue Dave: if the age of consent was 18 it would apply to straight men too. And gay men. And lesbians. So a 17 year old female having sex with a 17 year old male would both have an equal measure of guilt. So it’s a bit daft to talk of criminalising 17 year old men having consensual sex with 17 year old women.
But there has to be an age of consent somewhere, so are you prepared to engage in a debate about lowering it to 12? Because most young women are “fertile” by then actually.
And pointing out that women don’t “get themselves pregnant” despite rumours to the contrary in Noo Lab circles.
I thought Peter Tatchell’s suggestion last week was pretty good re lowering the age of consent:
And yes, it’s completely bizarre that 16 year olds can have sex (and get married with parental consent) but are to be ostracised if they then get pregnant. But the key point here is it’s only those who are on benefits that are going to be placed in these facilities and tutored in the art of good parenting.
I take it middle class children having children already know how to parent…..
There’s just so much class bias in this proposal it’s repugnant.
And I can’t help wondering now which party is going to be the first to suggest compulsory temporary sterilisation for those deemed not fit enough or wealthy enough to procreate……
I think that in reality that is the situation though isn’t it Cath? I’ve never yet heard of anyone ever getting prosecuted when under 16’s give birth for example, even when they’re over 16. And there also seems to be the odd wrinkly old man sleeping with 13 year olds and getting away scott free as well of course….But of course that’s just a *popstar sex scandal* according to Virgin media….
NB I wasn’t seriously suggesting lowering the age of consent to 12, I think it’s right where it is actually.
“I thought Peter Tatchell’s suggestion last week was pretty good re lowering the age of consent”
[Comment edited here for legal reasons. Cath]
“Whereas GLF saw marriage and the family as a patriarchal prison for women, gay people and children, today the LGBT movement uncritically champions same-sex marriage and families. It has embraced traditional heterosexual aspirations lock stock and barrel. How ironic. While straight couples are deserting marriage, same-sexers are rushing to embrace it: witness the current legal fight in California for the right to marry. Are queers the new conservatives, the 21st-century suburbanites?”
Peter never changed, straightness, isn’t liberation.
“GLF dared to imagine what society could be, rather than accepting society as it is – and so should we.”
“He actually believes that his argument is strengthened by statistics which show that almost 1,000 men are prosecuted each year for unlawful intercourse with underage girls.”
Are queers the new conservatives, the 21st-century suburbanites?”
I think so Gregory, I spent £60 in Lakeland last month…..
That won’t get a robot vacuum cleaner, I know a gay bloke who shouts at his when it misses a bit.
It can be programmed for the entire week. I think he got his in Lakeland.
“Anti-tangle technology stops Roomba from getting stuck on cords, rug and carpet tassels.”
Tassel proof robot, it doesn’t get more house proud than that.
The present law on the age of consent clearly has faults, which are compounded by the fact that the age of criminal responsibilty in this country is only 10.
This means that teenagers under 16 who have sex with each other – about 50% of the population in that age group – have automatically committed a criminal offence, and if prosecuted and found guilty could be severely punished and put on the sex offenders’ register as paedophiles. This is yet another example of the unintended consequences of carelessly drafted legislation.
The fact that the Crown Prosecution Service takes the view that it would not normally be in the public interest prosecute in these circumstances, and so rarely, if ever, does so, simply emphasises the inappropriateness of the legislation as currently drafted.
Legislation which is on the statute book but never applied in practice is basically junk legislation, not an unknown phenomenon under the present government, and should be revised or deleted accordingly.
A close-in-age exception obviously needs to be included in the present law on the age of consent, broadly as in Spain and Italy.
Ah yes, the robot vacuum cleaner a mere £299.98.
Maybe we should club together and buy Cath one while she’s indisposed, otherwise however is she going to become a proper housewife?
“The fact that the Crown Prosecution Service takes the view that it would not normally be in the public interest prosecute in these circumstances, and so rarely, if ever, does so, simply emphasises the inappropriateness of the legislation as currently drafted.”
If it is illegal to fart in the bath, it is best to keep it on the statute book, just for the sake of appearances.
There were people who said having sex with bicycles was a nasty foreign habit,
and we could safely derogate or amend, the same month, Britain endured an epidemic of cycle-shagging.
‘There will only be a maximum of 10 to 15 prosecutions a year under the new “abuse of trust” law backed by MPs last night, Whitehall officials have admitted.’
Don’t start me on that.
“Recent studies have suggested the number of children selling their bodies is greatly underestimated and is rising. Pilot schemes in Nottingham and Wolverhampton involvedcontacting 125 prostitutes aged from 11 to 18 – four times the number of child prostitutes than had been thought to work in the towns. They led to the prosecution of 22 men and three women for rape, sexual intercourse with a child under 16, kidnapping, assault and living off immoral earnings.”
‘3.6.1 Estimates of the number of youngpeople involved in prostitution There are no reliable national data on thenumber or profile of young people involvedin prostitution in the UK. Home Officefigures show that between 1989 and 1999 atotal of 3,312 cautions were issued and2,327 convictions were secured againstunder 18s involved in prostitution inEngland and Wales. ‘
We could fill jails up solely with johns who abuse children, the hisoric norm is to caution the child.
There you go, child prostitution criminalized from entirely the wrong direction. They didn’t swamp the prisons with depraved kerbcrawlers ( of any age) etc.
I’m off to take a quick bath.
I have read statistics, as high as seventy percent of the fathers of teen babies are over twenty years old, and fifteen percent (though it is likely to be higher, due to fear or reluctance to admit ) are relatives; fathers, uncles, grandfathers.
So no amount of telling girls will help, because in many cases they were raped anyway.
I also wonder why we stigmatize single mother hood. We should support it and them. A mother line is natural, a father line has to be enforced.
Which is why the government thinks this might be a vote winner with men.
You’re also ignoring the fact, Gulfstream5 that it is perfectly possible for an under 16 year old to rape someone younger (or older come to that). That is why in these cases, discretion is used, or overused, depending on what view you take. But although 13 year olds do have sex, (and always have done) I think it’s only in rare cases that they’re as grown up as they think they are. If the age of consent was 12, then there would be people thinking sex with 8 year old was ok. Sometimes a law is there pour encourager les autres.
In those cases it looks as if the general law on rape would apply, with the penalty adjusted accordingly, as the age of criminal responsibilty is only 10.
This is quite different from the law on the age of consent, which assumes consent subject to certain conditions and therefore the absence of rape.
I don’t undrestand the consent debate in the UK, it is so far away from where it started in the 1880s, which is the place it needs to return to re: UNCRC & CEDAW compliance.
By the way the following ‘rescue’ video was planned ( in Paul Goggins MP office) on the 15 April 2009, and executed 28 May 2009.
Six weeks from reality Tv idea to ‘rescue’. I doubt if you people really appreciate the nature of your problems.
So he is congratulating the police re: a reality Tv video he planned himself, six weeks earlier!
“The victims will receive care and support to help them recover from their horrific ordeal and I am delighted that the arrangements we made earlier this year with Women’s Aid and the Migrant Helpline are now available for victims of human trafficking.”
Six week wait on the horrific ordeal part for reasons of spin doctoring. Also ‘the script’ gets to become police testimony.
That narrative existed before the police crossed a door.
Where is the due process, the fair trial? New Labour, approach justice, in the only way they know how, as a TV programme.