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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Let’s face the real issue

Dr Frances Chandler

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Let’s face the real issue

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Although our latest “nine days’ wonder” of schoolchildren performing a sex act while being photographed has continued slightly longer than usual, I wonder what positive steps will be taken by those who can make a difference. But of course that includes all of us, as was noted in what I would consider to be the best commentary on the situation – a letter entitled Every One Of Us Shares The Blame appearing in the November 4 DAILY NATION. 
I, and quite a few others, don’t see why the NATION is attracting such criticism for publishing the photograph and the accompanying report. It served to bring the issue to the attention of those who could possibly provide solutions to the problem. What is so damaging about a still photograph which was blurred so that the children couldn’t be identified (in fact, it wouldn’t have been clear to me what was happening without the accompanying report), when the actual video had been circulating worldwide for several weeks previously and caused no outcry?
Either those in authority are like me, not fans of Facebook, or they didn’t have a problem with the video, or possibly they (like the proverbial ostriches mentioned by Pat Callender in the WEEKEND NATION) preferred to bury their heads and hope the matter would disappear if nothing was said.
Sex in schools is nothing new, but in the past it was secretly done, because children knew that, if discovered, there would be serious repercussions, whereas this latest event demonstrated that children now knowingly allow themselves to be photographed and actually put on a public performance with an audience cheering them on. So obviously they don’t care about revealing their identity.
Why then would anyone want to prosecute the NATION? The newspaper brought the issue to the public’s attention just as it did more recently when it published the fact that a 12-year-old boy allegedly killed a 14-year-old. The accused wasn’t identified, and while the newspaper report will not affect his life, if found guilty, his own actions certainly will.
So let’s forget the red herrings and deal with the problem. The Attorney General has said we need to protect our children. I agree, but we need to do that before they commit these acts, not afterwards by protecting them from publicity. But where do we start? There are so many contributing factors. We’ve let things slip so far that it will take considerable effort to bring them back. Some say a general slide began with Independence, while others feel that co-education, television, access to the Internet, loss of the extended family and community, and exposure to sex at home are all to blame in  this particular issue.
I agree with former Chief Education Officer Wendy Griffith-Watson that entertainment “which is largely fixated at the pelvic level and songs that support it” is largely responsible for the behavior of the youth. Added to that is the simulated sex performed during Crop Over, sometimes involving children. Isn’t this pornographic? But what has been done about it?
When our cultural ambassador, who is an icon not only here but worldwide, appears publicly half-naked (or poses naked for magazines), there’s no condemnation of the newspaper or the magazine publishers and she’s excused because “she has to cater to what sells”. In fact, I read somewhere that “after receiving flack for her fully-clothed photo shoot, RiRi reverted back to her old ways and shot some old-fashioned naked selfies for fans”. When she proudly portrays herself as “good girl gone bad” and her fragrances have names like “Rebel” and “Rogue” and she is adored, what do we expect from our children?
It was reported that the young girl involved in the sex video is now at the Government Industrial School. I feel sure that this will have a beneficial effect on her. I’ve visited this institution and find it to be well run with an uplifting environment. The girls are exposed to self-improvement and motivational activities and are taught skills which will stand them in good stead when they leave.
The NATION article has stimulated useful discussion, so let’s hope that now that those in authority seem to have awakened from their slumber, it will not be another case of “much ado and then . . . nothing”.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.