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Impact of laws on behaviour

“Statecraft is soulcraft.” – Aristotle

“Firm craftsmen of our fate” – Barbados National Anthem

Aristotle’s wise words allude to the fact that the laws of the land will, for better or worse, shape the behaviour, character and conscience of its citizens. It is simple. Laws shape beliefs and beliefs shape behaviours which in turn have a very real effect on human well-being.

It is not an abstract matter. Unsound laws will encourage unsound behaviour, which ultimately affects the well-being of society. “Health concerns” is increasingly being used as a pretext to argue for legalising same-sex practices. The supposed reason being, those who are most at risk and affected are somehow severely disadvantaged from coming forward to receive help because of the illegality of the practice, not to mention the stigma.

Therefore, the sophomoric reasoning concludes, to keep this practice illegal will only hamper the fight against HIV/AIDS because it “discriminates” against a group that is disproportionately affected. This position falsely assumes that both the homosexual act and culture is virtually the same as that of heterosexuals.

Jedi mind tricks, they are not. There is little reason to believe, and every reason to doubt, that encouraging this practice will actually help our “health concerns”.

Some of the best social science and research available point to significant differences in behavioural practices between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Differences that the state would do well not to explicitly sanction.

Take the issue that is perhaps key to the fight against HIV/AIDS – the number and exclusivity of partners. Professors David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison who were involved romantically, carried out a study to dispel what they viewed as a misconception – the greater degree of promiscuity among gay men.

Far from dispelling misconceptions, they confirmed what countless other studies have shown. No couple they survey remained sexually exclusive longer than five years. Their study led them to conclude that the “expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals”.

That was 1980. The results of a more recent study mentioned in The New York Times confirmed that exclusivity is the exception and not the norm among gay couples. Colleen Hoff notes: “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating, but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

It is wrong to unfairly exaggerate when dealing with exclusivity and homosexuality, it is even worse to ignore the empirical evidence. In the 1990s a survey in the United Kingdom of over five thousand men found that the median numbers of partners over the previous five years for men with exclusively heterosexual inclinations was two, with bisexual inclinations seven and with exclusively homosexual inclinations ten.

Another survey in the United States found that the average number of sexual partners since the age of 18 for men who identified as homosexual or bisexual was over two and a half times as many as the average for heterosexual men.

Do we still not see why men having sex with men continually account for the most new cases of HIV? It has nothing to do with the illegality of the practice. It has nothing to do with the “intolerant”, “homophobic” or “sanctimonious moralising” attitudes of society towards MSM.

It has everything to do with the actual practice in and of itself and the culture that ensues which demonstrably places low to no value on exclusivity and permanence. Do we honestly think that state approval of this practice and culture will help?

Even if we acquiesce to the growing wall of emotional sentiment, behavioural change is the only thing that will help this or any other group. So; what fate do we want our state to craft?

— Adrian Sobers

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