Title: Smoking and sodomy? The NZAF responds... Credit: New Zealand AIDS Foundation Features Friday 29th April 2005 - 12:00pm1114732800 Article: 715 Rights
The NZAF responds below to an article entitled “Smoking and Sodomy – Testing The Limits Of Political Correctness” by Glenn Peoples of the Locke Foundation, a religious right think-tank. In this article, Peoples argues that smoking and anal sex between men are both “unhealthy”, and asks why the former is discouraged by health authorities while the latter is not: “Either it is acceptable to condemn people's lifestyle and take other people's money to do so, or it is not. If it is acceptable, there is no reason, given the way we treat smokers, that it cannot be done to sodomites. Dispense with the shackles of political correctness and let people go on television and tell sodomites it's time to quit! If it is not acceptable to do this to sodomites, then let's apply the standard consistently...” Full article here: RACHAEL LEMESURIER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NZAF, RESPONDS: For the last 20 years The New Zealand AIDS Foundation has witnessed continued attacks on homosexuality from the religious right that disregard the human rights of lesbians and gay men and the promotion of community health and wellbeing. The frequent use of the term “lifestyle” when referring to homosexuality is a classic example. When used by the religious right the term intentionally trivialises the gay community as a “lifestyle choice” – such as buying a piece of rural land to escape from the city to. This refusal to see homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality feeds mainstream community fears and misunderstanding about sexuality that have directly contributed to the harmful effects of homophobia in our society, including: suicidality, a harmful lack of social and emotional intimacy among New Zealand men, school and workplace bullying, other self harm behaviours, and poor mental health. The NZAF repeats the common sense and moral response we have always had to this restrictive and outdated position: Homosexual orientation is not a lifestyle any more than being Maori or Jewish is a lifestyle. Ironically, religious behaviour is a lifestyle, it is clearly chosen, sexual orientation is not. The central argument in the article about smoking is seriously flawed at many different levels. For example the author tries to sideline the risks from inhaling second-hand smoke. Limiting the risks to non-smokers is the PRIMARY justification for public health interventions worldwide to restrict smoking. (i.e. smoking causes harm to even those who choose not to engage in the activity. Sexual expression between consenting adults does not.) It is a surprise to NZAF that it appears that either Mr Peoples does not know his subject or he deliberately chooses to ignore this fact because he is aware that it collapses his entire argument. It also seems that he hasn't noticed the extremely public efforts made by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and the Ministry of Health over the last twenty years to encourage gay men to use condoms, which reduces the risk of contracting HIV from a positive person by around 95%. This effort has been applauded by the Executive Director of UNAIDS as highly successful amongst developed countries. Of course, if neither partner has HIV or an STI there is no inherent risk from anal sex at all. The same of course cannot be said about smoking, which always carries high-level inherent health risks when people are exposed to active carcinogens over time, whether they are the smoker or those who share the air they exhale. To ensure clarity in the message the NZAF has, so long as condoms are used correctly for anal sex there is very little residual health risk. Certainly far less, for example, than in almost all contact sports. But calling the article "Smoking versus rugby: Testing the limits of political correctness" doesn't sound nearly so compelling does it? NZAF queries why it is important for Mr Peoples to make a case against homosexuals/anal sex other than to promote a belief that homosexuals are not worthy of equal rights. Interesting to note that even when Dr Kinsey undertook his national survey in the United States some 40 years ago many heterosexuals stated that they had anal sex. It is also interesting to note that homosexuality includes lesbians. So it is unclear whether it is anal sex that Mr Peoples wishes to stop (which would mean both gay men and many heterosexuals) or homosexuality, which includes lesbians who are the least likely to be involved in penetrative anal sex. It is saddening that a Christian has focused attention on marginalising an accepted minority, challenging democratically made NZ law (Homosexual Law Reform and the Human Rights Act), promoting hated and public anti-gay prejudice and discomforting the heterosexual community by ostracising their family members, work colleagues and community members. New Zealand AIDS Foundation - 29th April 2005    
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