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24 August 2013 | Feature Article

Up Next: Pedophiles Are Asking For Same Status As Homosexuals

Last week, a very large Oscar-winning Hollywood personality made news. The incident didn't make the headlines because tabloid journalists and gossips in the blogosphere decided the story was not news enough for our consumption. The world of news is too pricy for boring stories about a celebrity accepting Jesus Christ as his personal savior and professing his faith in good old Christianity. Yet, if the action movie star (let's shelve his name for now) had announced that he is gay, his press secretaries would busily be scheduling interview slots for the David Letterman show, or Tonight with Jay Leno, to tell his story. The gay lobby would compliment his bravery for declaring what he believes in, just as many others were congratulated for what is now called 'coming out'.

We in Ghana love the gay narrative, too. Not many African writers make it to the book review pages of the Wall Street Journal, and very few Ghanaian authors have ever been studied for a course module at Yale University, but we were more interested in the sexual orientation of Andrew Solomon when he helped popularize President Mahama's 'My First Coup D'├ętat', than the massive intellectual capital the book has garnered around the globe. Solomon was compelled to do a reaction in an article, in which he tasked us to be more open-minded about the sexual otherness of gays. In the end, America paid more attention to our president's memoirs than Ghanaians, who were busy worrying whether the presidential PR team couldn't have found a heterosexual American or British of Solomon's quality to do a better job.

If they didn't carry a label as gays or homosexuals or MSM (man sleeps with man), we would perhaps see it as less of an aberration if a person decided to exercise their right to happiness in a way that is different from how we know it. J.K. Rowling writes in one of her legendary Harry Potter series, that 'Fear of a name increases fear of anything.' If we are scared of homosexuality because of the different sexual images it evokes, then perhaps it is the same fear that makes pedophiles look like demons that must be exorcised. And if we thought such a prospect was near, then we are in for another struggle with a new movement that is asking for pedophiles to be given the same rights as homosexuals, because theirs, like homosexuals, is also a sexual orientation.

The Northern Colorado Gazette recently published the interviews of two Canadian psychologists, who are pushing for the idea of recognising pedophilia as a sexual orientation. One of them, Professor Van Gijseghem, a former University of Montreal academic, is reported as saying: 'Pedophiles are not simply people who commit a small offense from time to time but rather are grappling with what is equivalent to a sexual orientation just like another individual may be grappling with heterosexuality or even homosexuality.' He adds 'True pedophiles have an exclusive preference for children, which is the same as having a sexual orientation. You cannot change this person's sexual orientation. He may, however, remain abstinent.'

The other psychologist, Dr. Quincey, Emeritus professor at Queen's University, also contends that 'There is no evidence that this sort of preference can be changed through treatment or through anything else', thus asserting Van Gijsegham's position that homosexuality is a sexual orientation. In tow are Harvard University Health publications, particularly their July 2010 edition, which states 'Pedophilia is a sexual orientation and unlikely to change. Treatment aims to enable someone to resist acting on his sexual urges.' There are other bodies that are likely to join in as the debate rages on.

We should not be quick to stretch forth a finger and point it towards the West. Instead, let's turn back the same finger and look to Nigeria, where it is reported a senator has married a thirteen year old girl. Sani Ahmed Yerima, a 49 year old Nigerian Muslim, paid $100,000 as dowry for the 13 year old Egyptian girl. The wedding took place in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where the law makes marriage to girls under 18 illegal. The senator already has three wives, and he maintains that Prophet Mohammed married when he was nine. In the eyes of Islamic law, the lawmaker may have waited too long to marry his fourth wife, who is four years the Prophet's senior when he got married.

How do we proceed on all these? Before we ask whether senator Yerima should be tied down on the grounds of law or altogether stopped on grounds of morality, just as we have demonized homosexuals and pedophiles, Professor Gijsegham provides a little breather: 'If, for instance, you were living in a society where heterosexuality is proscribed or prohibited and you were told that you had to get therapy to change your sexual orientation, you would probably say that that is slightly crazy. In other words, you would not accept that at all. I use this analogy to say that, yes indeed, pedophiles do not change their sexual orientation.' But of course, senator Yerima's is more than a sexual orientation; it is a human rights issue which should not be bought with $100,000 or parried away by the laws of religion. The federal law must stay its ground.

The battle of the sexes, and of sex itself, is always a longsuffering one. Today, it is legal in many countries for gays to marry in church, just like anybody else. Homosexuality has been with us for as long as prostitution has been a sin. However, until 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, the idea of a man kissing another man was a classified mental case. Pedophilia is a different problem. Instead of calling them pedophiles, a group of psychiatrists have proposed the term 'minor-attracted people' in the mental health manuals of the APA. It is perhaps, the same as saying women-attracted people and men-attracted people for homosexuals. Well, who are we to judge? Even Pope Francis has waived his right to judge on the matter. The UN is asking us to see one another as 'free and equal' in its ongoing sexual equality campaign.

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin
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