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Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. 106

Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. 106, 15 APRIL 2004

Contents: * Australian Family Court says girl can become a "boy"

* World Congress of Families statement

* Codes of Conduct

* Muslims teach government how to deal with Islam

Australian Family Court says girl can become a "boy"

A landmark decision by the Australian Family Court has authorised a 13-year-old girl to start sex change hormone treatment. Alex has been diagnosed as having a gender identity dysphoria and it is the first time an Australian child has been given legal approval for this treatment. The application to the court was made by the state welfare department that is Alex's guardian. An expert psychiatrist found that, "Alex is a bright, engaging, biologically normal 12-year old girl who has a strong, persistent, longstanding belief and desire to live as a male...[Alex] has repeatedly stated his desire to be a boy and has behaved as such."

Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson said that Alex did not have the capacity to consent to the process. "However, in the present case, I have uncontrovered evidence not only that the proposed procedure is entirely consistent with Alex's wishes but also that the expert evidence as to the best interests of Alex accords with those wishes." But is this really in Alex's best interests? And is Alex of an age and maturity to grasp the reality and implications of such a process that will eventually involve irreversible treatment?

At least three significant issues arise. The term "best interests" has no legal definition and as we can clearly see in this case it encourages judicial activism. The term "gender identity dysphoria" looks more like an ideological construct than an accurate description of a medical condition. Implicit in the courts finding is the assumption that gender is a social construct. Applying that ideology to Alex is outrageously irresponsible, girls can not become boys. The courts decision will put Alex in no man's land, indeed in no woman's land.

Real compassion demands shared suffering. The response of a loving parent would be to lead Alex out of her confusion, not to endorse it. Sadly Alex doesn't have that parent and we can be sure that many tears will be the consequence of the courts decision.

To read a Sydney Morning Herald report on the case visit: www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/13/1081838723546.html

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=106.1

World Congress of Families statement

The World Congress of Families III was recently held in Mexico City attended by 3500 people from 60 countries. The focus was on the role that the family plays in all cultures. Forty years ago their findings would have been uncontroversial, and in many countries they still are, but that does not appear to be the case in New Zealand. In brief, here is an official statement from the Congress.

"We, the families of the world, representing diverse nations, cultures, and faiths, join together in this urgent worldwide call to defend marriage and family.

Whereas, throughout history the family has been universally recognised as the essential foundation of every successful society and as the natural and fundamental group unit of society... entitled to protection by society and the State and

Whereas, marriage between husband and wife, entered into with the free consent of both, continues to be the best foundation for strong and effective families and the best environment to prepare each new generation for productive lives and responsible citizenship; and

Whereas, marriage and family around the world are now being severely undermined by a variety of social, cultural, political, legal and economic forces, including insufficient protection of life before as well as after birth, resulting in widespread harm to individuals, families, communities, and nations; now

Therefore, on behalf of family, we urgently call upon all other families, responsible citizens, community leaders and government officials throughout the world to join together to take all necessary measures to defend and strengthen marriage as the exclusive union of male and female and to protect and promote the family as the fundamental unit of society."

A petition to the United Nations endorsing this statement has been started. To sign it visit: http://www.worldfamilyalliance.org/wfa/

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=106.2

Codes of Conduct

The Christchurch City Council is proposing a Code of Conduct for councilors. This follows several incidents in which some have been indulging in name calling (eg. "titchy bitch") and a former councilor insinuating others were 'fat'. Mayor Garry Moore welcomes the move in lieu of local body elections later in the year.

A similar development has been proposed by the Teachers' Council. Speaking at a Council Code of Ethics Summit in March, Education Minister Trevor Mallard, said to delegates: "We have at hand a range of codes that the teacher unions produced some years ago. There is also the substantial work done by the Teacher Registration Board in bringing these codes together and in consulting widely with stakeholder groups. We have models to choose from a range of professions."

Codes of Conduct have existed in some shape or form for a long time, but the need for more of them now is symptomatic of a society where trust and professionalism are lacking. Increasingly we have to legislate to make people behave in a civil manner. Teaching used to be a profession by virtue of its implicit standards and expectations.

Codifying behaviour has become necessary because moral relativism now reigns - 'you have your values and I have mine'. But in the attempt to make each person his or her own master, we don't create freedom but actually create an environment where more restrictions are required. Genuine freedom (including respect and manners) comes out of a voluntary acceptance of a shared and universally accepted ethic, not through new 'top down' laws and imposed codes of conduct.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=106.3

Muslims teach government how to deal with Islam

The Muslim community in New Zealand has started teaching government and community agencies how to deal better with Islam. A two-day training forum in South Auckland which ends today, aimed to teach health, education, social service and employment staff about the importance of religious identity to Islamic people. It addressed the barriers they face to integration in New Zealand, and particular issues facing Muslim women and youth. There are now around 35,000 Muslim people in New Zealand, mostly living in Auckland.

This move represents the growing strength and influence on New Zealand culture and government departments by a distinct group identified by their religious beliefs. It could well be a positive initiative to improve understanding, however, the question is the extent to which change is required to meet the needs of Muslim immigrants.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=106.4

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Robert Browning Men spin clouds of fuzz where matters end.

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