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Child sexual abuse, the law, and ‘culture’

19 February, 2008

News Limited sources recently ran a story about a new case involving Judge Sarah Bradley, a Queensland judge who became the centre of a furore after not imposing gaol terms on nine indigenous youths who gang raped a 10-year-old girl in their community in Cape York. In this new case, she has allowed a teacher accused of sexually abusing a child time to gather evidence that he was enacting local cultural norms. The story is interesting in a number of ways, not the least in terms of how ‘culture’ can be deployed in legal settings, and where judges may appear to be more ‘culturally sensitive’ and culturally relativist than members of the communities in question.

In this case, an anthropologist from James Cook University has apparently been called in to write a report on the authenticity of the claim about the cultural legitimacy of the act. It would be interesting to know what s/he has to say. I would particularly like to know what the response to the question of whether the practice of oral sex between men and boys is a ‘part of’ the culture in question. From my reading of the article, there are a number of problematic issues arising from the way the issue is being constructed, particularly about the sorts of assumptions being made about the nature of culture.

For example, in a fascinating detail, although the accused was not raised in a ‘traditional’ manner, his lawyer argues that he was ‘imbued’ with the culture, presumably simply by living and working in the area. Culture as contagion, I suppose. It also seems to ignore the holistic premises of an anthropological understanding of culture, which require that we consider an act not in isolation, but within the context of wider institutions, beliefs and practices. To simply ask whether the performance of oral sex between men and boys in a particular community is a ‘part of the culture’ decontextualises the act. It assumes that if an act can be found ‘in a culture’ then the act is therefore ‘cultural’, regardless of the context in which it occurs. This would appear to be a particularly erroneous position to take with regard to ‘mens’ business’ rite of passage type acts. If they are occurring in secret, isolated from the political institution they participate in — the production of initiated men — then it would be very problematic to my mind to ascribe them with cultural authenticity. Making use of the fundamental anthropological notion that culture is both shared and practised, I would also be putting more emphasis on the opinions of members of the community about the legitimacy of the act, than on an anthropologist’s opinion about an abstracted and therefore reified culture. Sorry, anthropologists!

Ironic, really, that an anthropological insight serves to delegitimise anthropological knowledge. However, this legal prediliction to treat anthropologists as experts on a particular ‘culture’, understood to be a sort of archive — a relatively stable, bounded and possessing a traditional and authentic form that can be catalogued — actually puts anthropologists at odds with their own understandings about culture and how it works. If anthropologists are to be experts on cases such as these, I think it should be as much to consider and critique the manner in which culture is being deployed in the courts as to act as curators of a cultural archive.

The full text of the article follows.

Gang-rape judge in child sex furore

By Padraic Murphy, Natasha Robinson and Tony Koch

February 15, 2008

Article from: The Australian

THE north Queensland judge who last year allowed nine child rapists to go free has given a teacher, who has admitted forcing an indigenous 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him, time to gather evidence that he was educating his victim in “men’s business”.

James Last, a Sydney-educated teacher who recently worked in Northern Territory communities, last week pleaded guilty in Cairns before District Court judge Sarah Bradley to seven counts of indecently dealing with an 11-year-old boy over a four-month period in 1983.

But Judge Bradley has granted a three-month adjournment to allow Last, who claims he received no sexual gratification from the assaults, to allow his lawyers to find an anthropologist to support his claim that he had been trying to introduce the Torres Strait boy to “traditional” islander sexual practices.

Judge Bradley granted the adjournment despite the prosecution pointing out that it had two witnesses – “respected elders” from the boy’s home island – ready to debunk the claim that such practices were part of “men’s business”.

The adjournment has outraged indigenous leaders, who have already called for Judge Bradley’s sacking after she failed last year to jail nine males for the gang rape of a 10-year-old girl in the Cape York community of Aurukun.

Last, now 61 and living in Darwin, took the 11-year-old boy from his family on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait in 1983, promising to educate him in Cairns.

But Last, who was 37 at the time of the offences, repeatedly sexually abused the boy, at one point saying: “I’ve sucked you, now it’s your turn.”

Last said yesterday he had taken the “self-sacrificial” step of pleading guilty to the charges to spare the boy, who he loved, a trial. He said Aboriginal elders in the Torres Strait had “entrusted” the boy to him, and he was tutored by the elders in “men’s business”.

“I’m saying that certain things are not abuse and they never were in the traditional culture,” he said. “A lot of it is men’s business and that’s why, I think very wisely, Aboriginal islander people have said men’s business is men’s business. They say, ‘You don’t tell the white fella what he can’t understand’.”

Prosecutor Skye Growden told the court Last had told the victim the abuse was a part of traditional culture. “The defendant told the victim that this was traditional and that older men did this to young men when they loved them and he believed him,” she said. “The complainant says in his statement that the arresting officer in this matter was the first person that he told because he was ashamed about the offences and worried what people would say if they found out.”

Ms Growden told the court that although Last had a part-Aboriginal father, he was not raised in a traditional manner and that he should receive a custodial sentence to send a clear message to the community.

“It is stated in the defence material that he was born in Sydney where he was educated to grade 12. He then went on to receive a scholarship and teach in Wollongong and undertake postgraduate studies,” she said.

“He has gone on to have an illustrious and distinguished career. He is an educated man, using what he claims to be part of Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait Islander culture, that is, men’s business, to explain away his offending behaviour. I have been instructed that this is not part of the culture.”

But Judge Bradley rejected calls for an immediate custodial sentence, allowing Last’s lawyers to gather evidence that he had been abusing the boy as some kind of rite of passage.

“What we’ve got here is a plea in mitigation on the basis that the defendant genuinely believed that what he was doing was culturally appropriate and that he had that excuse for it,” Judge Bradley said on February 6. “I appreciate he’s pleaded guilty but the prosecution is not accepting that, so we’ll need some evidence. Clearly, it’s got a significant impact on penalty.”

The following day, Judge Bradley adjourned the case until May 15 to allow lawyers to ask an anthropologist from James Cook University, which is based in Townsville, to write a report on whether child sexual abuse was an accepted part of Saibai islander culture. “It’s clearly a live issue, and it’s clearly an issue that’s relevant to penalty, so I need to give the defence that opportunity,” she said.

Judge Bradley’s decision to consider the anthropology report was made after Ms Growden said it was “the Crown’s submission that an adjournment is not necessary unless you’re rejecting the submissions that I made yesterday, which were based on decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. I do have two people – two elders from Saibai Island – that are on standby this morning, but can give evidence that it’s not part of men’s business at Saibai Island.”

In earlier submissions, Last’s counsel Kevin McCreanor said his client had become “imbued” with indigenous culture.

He said Last told police when interviewed about the allegations that an elder on Saibai Island had told him cultural secrets.

Mr McCreanor said the interviewing police officer told Last that in his investigations in the Torres Strait he, too, had heard that boys’ first sexual experiences were “with an older male of their tribe to teach them about his body and things like that”.

But Ms Growden, a former associate to Judge Bradley, later said that statement was “a tactic” of the interviewing police.

Mr McCreanor said Last told police: “Those things were told to me as well, but I was encouraged because of the incapacity of most people to understand, and the derision that flowed back on to so-called primitive people, not to talk about these things.”

Judge Bradley said it was up to Last to supply evidence to support his contention that his actions were “culturally appropriate”.

Late last year, Judge Bradley had refused to impose jail terms on nine youths and men who gang-raped a 10-year-old intellectually impaired girl on Aurukun community, on western Cape York.

The Court of Appeal in Brisbane on Wednesday ruled that the Crown would be given an extended time to appeal against those sentences.

Many thanks to Kirsten Bell, former lecturer at Macquarie, for alerting me to this article.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23215930-2,00.html

10 Comments leave one →
  1. nursel permalink
    19 February, 2008 8:24 pm

    Using a cultural argument for one’s defense like in this case is called ‘cultural defense’. Cultural defense ‘maintains that persons socialised in a minority, or foreign culture, who regularly conduct themselves in accordance with their own culture’s norms, should not be held fully accountable for conduct that violates official law, if that conduct conforms to the prescriptions of their own culture’. (Magnarella, P, 1991, ‘Justice in a culturally pluralistic society’, journal of ethnic studies v:19, pp-65-84).

    Cultural defense can be very problematic and open to exploitation. There was a gang rape by a group of brothers from Pakistan in Sydney 2002. In court one of the brothers used cultural defense that he was brought up in Pakistan in a Muslim culture, and that according to his culture girls who go out at night with men and drink alcohol deserve sexual assualt. But of course both in Pakistan and Australia rape is a criminal act and it is denounced in both cultures. He was trying to excuse his personal responsibility and diminish his sentence. But the court rejected this claim.

    In Jovan’s example, the accused wasn’t brought up in the traditional culture at all…

    Cultural relativism is problematic as well, because there can be morally wrong acts in every culture, and every culture can be criticised without turning this into ‘my culture is superior than yours’ or into a ‘them’ and ‘us’ rhetoric. But cultural relativism is also about history, about colonisation etc. Anyway I suppose ‘human rights’ can provide us with a universal ethics which should be applied in any society and culture.

  2. Kevin Murphy permalink
    19 February, 2008 9:28 pm

    This case is being used by the Murdoch mob to beat up on the judge for applying the law as it currently exists in relation to taking account of indigenous cultural difference when determining sentences for crimes, again. At Crikey Greg Barnes objected yesterday:

    “14 . S-x in the Melanesia: the evidence is there
    Greg Barns writes:

    When the media began the latest phase of its witch hunt against Queensland District Court judge Susan Bradley last Friday it thought it had Her Hounour on toast. Judge Bradley has adjourned a sentencing hearing in a s-xual abuse case for three months so that the defence can call evidence to support their client, former teacher James Last’s instructions that he thought having oral s-x with an 11-year-old boy from Saibai Island in the Torres Strait was permissible in that culture.

    Mr Last says he derived no s-xual pleasure from the act. He was, according to his lawyers, so imbued with the Melanesian culture of the Torres Strait islands, that he thought his actions were cutlurally acceptable.

    The Australian in its editorial last Saturday scoffed at Judge Bradley. The “judge has given credence to the offensive, errant notion that the crimes to which Last pleaded guilty … might somehow be mitigated by the traditions of indigenous culture,” the newspaper said. And, says The Australian, it is “extremely unlikely” any anthropologist would back Mr Last’s explanation.

    Whoa, not so fast! The ritual of young boys and older men engaging in s-xual acts is indeed part of some cultures. In the June 2000 edition of academic journal, Current Anthropology, Dr R.C. Kirkpatrick of the University of California, in a heavily footnoted article, The Evolution of Human Homos-xual Beahviour, deals at length with homos-xual practices in Melanesian societies. These practices include same-s-x alliances where “the younger client provides labor in the fields (and s-xual services) while the older patron provides food and education.”

    Kirkpatrick is not the first to document these practices. He cites numerous previous studies in his article, particularly Gilbert Herdt’s famous Ritualised Homos-xuality in Melanesia.

    In short, Mr Last will find evidence to support his claim. That does not mean the judge will accept it as a mitigating factor when it comes to sentencing, but to suggest that the adjournment should not have been granted because there was no evidence to support Mr Last’s claim is simply not true. ”

    Unfortunately for Mr Barnes, the evidence is not there. I wrote to Crikey but they did not publish my letter, perhaps because it was too long. Here it is.

    “Re: S-x in the Melanesia: the evidence is there
    “Whoa, not so fast,” indeed Greg Barns. I am no fan of the editorial writers at the Australian, but I agree with them on this occasion, it certainly is “extremely unlikely that an anthropologist would back Mr Last’s explanation” that “having oral s-x with an 11-year-old boy from Saibai Island in the Torres Strait was permissible in that culture.” I am an anthropologist, and I have done extensive fieldwork in both Torres Strait and the adjacent mainland area of Papua New Guinea. On the basis of more than 6 years field research over the last 10 years, and considering all of the available ethnographic evidence, it is my opinion that for a schoolteacher to be engaging in oral s-x with an 11 year old Torres Strait Islander boy was most definitely not “permissible in that culture.”

    The content of Kirkpatrick’s (2000) Current Anthropology article, cited by Barnes, does not support his contention that “Mr Last will find evidence to support his claim.” Kirkpatrick states in his opening paragraph “The Melanesian example of homosexual behavior is well known, with 10 to 20% of Melanesian societies requiring all men to participate in homosexual as well as heterosexual sex.” For this figure of 10 to 20% Kirkpatrick relies on a paper by Herdt (1984 “Ritualized homosexual behavior in the male cults of Melanesia, 1862–1983: An introduction,” in Ritualized homosexuality in Melanesia. Edited by G. H. Herdt, pp. 1–81. Berkeley: University of California Press.). However the extent of ritual homosexuality in south coast New Guinea was significantly overestimated by Herdt (see Knauft, 1990 “The Question of Homosexuality among the Kiwai of South New Guinea.” Journal of Pacific History 25:188-210, and 1993 South Coast New Guinea Cultures: History, Comparison, Dialectic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1993,ch3). Most importantly, neither Kirkpatrick nor Herdt make any mention of Saibai, nor anywhere else in Torres Strait.

    It is true that a wide range of ritual sexual practices, heterosexual and homosexual, have been documented in Melanesia. Some examples from mainland New Guinea adjacent to Torres Strait include the Trans-Fly people, north of Torres Strait, for whom the initiation of boys used to involve anal insemination by older men (see FE Williams (1936) Papuans of the Trans Fly). For the Kiwai people to the north-east of Saibai the moguru fertility ceremony involved promiscuous heterosexual coitus in order to obtain sexual fluids that were used for practices designed to ensure fecundity of people and their physical environment (see G Landtman (1927) The Kiwai Papuans of British New Guinea). And the ritual life of the Marind Anim, to the northwest of Saibai, also used to involve ritual heterosexual practices (see J Van Baal (1966) Dema).

    While it is theoretically possible that Torres Strait Islanders may have engaged in some form of ritual sexual practices before the arrival on the islands of missionaries and government in the 1870s, there is no evidence in the ethnographic record on which any assertion that they did, or what type of practices this may have involved, could be based. Most Torres Strait Islander elders today strenuously deny that their ancestors ever engaged in ritual homosexual activities, and as there is no ethnographic evidence to explicitly contradict them I wonder why Barns insists there is.

    I am in broad sympathy with what I take to be Barns’ main argument: that media witch hunts of judges who apply legally correct procedures for taking account of extenuating circumstances arising out of cultural difference are not helpful to the dispensation of justice. It would assist the credibility of his argument if he was a little more thorough in his research.”

    Perhaps the lawyer for the defendant in this case actually believes that a credible anthropologist will support his case. Why else would he stand up in court and say he will find one? If he does believe this I am sure he is wrong. But it is a shame that spurious claims like this are able to be so easily used by the likes of Murdoch editors to champion their supremacist attitudes to cultural difference. And anthropologists are mere pawns in the game of the lawyers and editorial opinion writers.

  3. 29 February, 2008 9:22 am

    Richard Davis, an anthropologist from UWA has written a response to this case in The Australian. I reproduce it here to continue the discussion on this topic. The URL of the original is included below. JM.

    CLAIMS that tradition or culture provides a reasonable excuse for an act of pedophilia would be rightly repugnant in the extreme to most people.
    Yet this is the argument being put forward in a north Queensland court.

    As an anthropologist I am convinced that if this argument is accepted it will be a tragedy.

    Pedophilia could come to be regarded as an uncommon but nevertheless acceptable practice in Australian society and provide pedophiles with a precedent to call on if they end up in court.

    Not only would this be a tragedy for children but a tragedy for Torres Strait Islanders who, it is claimed, provide cultural succour to homosexual pedophilia.

    The Australian recently reported that north Queensland District Court judge Sarah Bradley had granted a three-month adjournment to James Last, who pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecently dealing with an 11-year-boy from Saibai Island in Torres Strait in 1983.

    Bradley granted the adjournment to allow Last to substantiate his claim that his sexual abuse of the boy was part of traditional islander sexual practices. Public reaction condemned Bradley for allowing Last the adjournment, largely on the basis that if Last’s claims are valid then his actions may be excusable.

    There is in fact no historical or contemporary evidence that man-boy sexual relationships have a basis in Torres Strait Islander traditions.

    This contradicts the claim by Greg Barns, who recently wrote in Crikey. com.au that Last will find support because anthropological research shows that man-boy sexual relationships occur in Melanesia and because Torres Strait Islanders are Melanesians his actions are culturally appropriate.

    Torres Strait Islanders are culturally complex.

    In the southern part of Torres Strait many islanders identify themselves as Aboriginal; in the north, more distinctly Melanesian.

    Between the 1870s and 1940s many peoples from across the world migrated to Torres Strait to work in the marine industries. These included Pacific Islanders and many Asian peoples.

    Along with Europeans they had a profound influence on Torres Strait cultures, among the most important being the widespread acceptance of Christianity. In some instances cultural practices ceased altogether, such as polygamy. In other instances they were maintained, such as the preservation of Kalaw Lagaw Ya as the primary language spoken on many of the central and northwest island communities.

    Barns is wrong to argue that support for his position can be found in the work of anthropologists who research homosexuality in Melanesia. Those anthropologists who have worked on sexuality in Melanesia recognise that there are some societies in which homosexual relationships are more common than others, but this amounts to only 10 per cent to 20 per cent across Melanesia.

    These societies are scattered throughout Melanesia; there are no regions where one sexual orientation or another is more common. Even if there were, it is also well known that in these societies, as it is in many parts of the world, sexual proclivity changes through a person’s life. Also, some society-wide sexual practices have changed dramatically through time. Bruce Knauft, working with the Gebusi of interior lowland New Guinea, found that between the early 1980s and mid-’90s man-boy sexual relationships entirely ceased, largely as a result of conversion toChristianity.

    Characterising all of Melanesian culture by one prominent practice in a small number of societies may be a convenient way of conveying information, but this can quickly become misleading as the characterisation often sticks as a widespread and persistent feature.

    It is important to remember that those Melanesian societies in which homosexuality is common sit alongside more heterosexually inclined societies. Proximity to one set of sexual, or other cultural, practices is not contagious. If it were we would have thoroughly unremarkable cultural homogeneity in many parts of the world.

    It also helps explain why man-boy sexual relationships are absent in Torres Strait. Just being Melanesian doesn’t mean that Saibai Island men are inclined to have sex with boys. It is simply not a part of their culture.

    According to Last’s counsel Kevin McCreanor, Last became imbued with the local culture of Saibai. Even if man-boy sexual relationships were culturally sanctioned on Saibai, which they are not, how is it possible for a person who is not reared in a particular cultural setting to become acculturated to another culture?

    Anthropologists often refer to the process of socialisation as a way of understanding how a person becomes habituated to particular ideas, values and ways of doing things. Socialisation is a lifelong practice but it is not always a one-way street; sometimes a person throws away their attitudes and values and takes on different ones. A person may do this voluntarily, such as when an atheist freely converts to Catholicism, or involuntarily, as when a person is coerced in a military camp into accepting their jailer’s characterisation of them.

    Where coercion is absent there is a strong element of choice involved and it is always to be wondered why some elements of a culture are taken on board and others are ignored. It is rarely the case that a person freely moving from their home culture to another jettisons all that they know about themselves and the world around them.

    It will be interesting to see Last’s full explanation for why he felt that islander culture compelled him to have sex with an 11-year-old boy.

    Apart from the harm done to the victim, perhaps the most damaging aspect of this case is the perception that islanders condone pedophilia and that in special circumstances pedophilia should be recognised by wider Australian society.

    Not only does this create the impression that islanders are barbaric and cruel but it supports the notion that anyone who is so minded can provide a cultural rationale for having sex with children.

    As anthropologist Richard Shweder points out, court cases that push at the edges of criminal law tend to clarify the ethical issues that are at their heart. In the case before Bradley it is to be hoped that the issue of informed consent does not give way to a wayward sense of cultural pluralism. If it does, we have made the inhumane humane.

    Richard Davis is lecturer of anthropology and sociology at the University of Western Australia.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23273902-7583,00.html

  4. 29 February, 2008 10:25 am

    Kevin, thanks for reproducing your letter here and contributing to this conversation. It’s good to have input from someone with ethnographic familiarity with the area. I’m sorry I haven’t responded up to now.

    In many ways the Davis article I’ve just reproduced in this thread makes similar points to your argument about the variety of practices in Melanesia. I also certainly agree that it’s important to bear in mind the ways these stories may be used to push this or that political agenda. If Justice Bradley is implementing the law as it is generally understood to apply, then she shouldn’t be criticised. What interested me initially in the whole question is the way the notion of ‘culture’ was being deployed by the defendant and his lawyer, and the apparent legitimacy conveyed to this interpretation by the decision of the court to grant leave to gather evidence. This would suggest that the defendant has at least a prima facie defence.

    In addition to the point that both you and Davis make about the complexity and variety of sexual practices in Melanesia and the lack of ethnographic evidence of man-boy relations in Torres Strait, I think Davis’ other points about the nature of socialisation are also important because they move us away from the simple question of whether or not they “have a practice” “in their culture”. I would also raise again the question of context — surely for practices to be considered legitimate for the purposes of a cultural defence, they need to be shown to be generally recognised and occurring within a legitimate collective framework.

    Could I ask hypothetically, then, whether evidence of past, or even present, practices of this kind would, or should, change anything in the case at hand? What if a anthropologist could be found to argue that these kinds of relations were indeed “part of the local culture”? Would these statements by anthropologist trump the assertions of the local leaders that they don’t do that kind of thing?

    I suppose that what I’m arguing possibly leads to a kind of functionalism — that the culture in question needs to be thought of as a sort of organic whole, and where particular practices function to reproduce that whole. However, I struggle with the notion that practices can remain “cultural”, particularly in a legal sense, if they are decoupled from a collective context. I don’t see how Last could legitimately claim that he was “imbued” with the local culture, as if by osmosis. As Davis argues, there is the element of choice and therefore agency involved here. I would add, though, that it’s also not just about the individual and their socialisation but also about collective understandings.

  5. 30 March, 2008 4:02 am

    This is flat out cacamamie, and flagrant abuse of defenseless children. I live on a reservation where children are constantly sexually abused, and the authorities constantly turn a blind eye, saying the Tribe is sovereign. A little 15 year old told me in art class that she had been raped. The principal expelled her, and later fired me, charging me with misconduct, a charge upheld by the district court. The rapist is roaming around the girl’s house, and the case was dismissed in tribal court. The tribal chair woman wrote a letter to the superintendent, demanding that he fire me for interfering in Native American culture. The tribal chair is related to the rapist. Later, the chairwoman’s daughter, 29, severely beat up the rape victim, smashing a bottle on the back of her head, and giving her a concussion. Nothing happened there, either. Case dismissed. The only person punished in this, is myself; a teacher fired and charged with misconduct will never teach again. As a result, I am living in abject poverty. You might call this culture, but I call it ciminal, and, by god, I do intend to write a book about my experiences.

  6. Klauskent permalink
    31 March, 2008 3:11 am

    Yes, I have heard the “cultural context” argument used before to justify sexual behavior.

    It is even more frightening when we apply it to the latitude offered to various religious sects.

    There is some ethnographic work by Chou Ta-Kuan (Zhou Daguan), that in 1296 in South East Asia, Monks actually “deflowered” virgins in some type of ceremonial rites of passage. I personally do not believe this was true but merely some type of misunderstanding on the part of Zhou, (as is also evidenced in his ethnocentric view of local female promiscuity in the same ethnography).

    Religious and cultural latitude offers members in a particular culture access to behaviors deemed bizarre, perverted or outright human rights violations to the outsider, and as Anthropologists we are supposed to have some type of objectivity to this. Yes, we should write factual ethnographies without judging or condemning the things we witness, but we certainly don’t have to accept what is often a clear violation of human rights.

    The main problem is not that Cultures with varied sexual practices exist, but rather that people with sexual propensities that are congruent with those of a particular culture will often exploit indigenous populations.

    This problem has been solved by agreements between Nations that insure the Citizens must follow the laws of their country while abroad. This means if the legal age of sex in your country is 18, then while abroad you must abide by this.

    While this idea of an age limit is not foolproof because such legislation simply cannot control for a persons education, decision making ability, social and economic circumstances and indigenous rights, in the developed world such blanket legislation is necessary as it reduces exploitation.

    However, within a particular culture, what those people do is sometimes a bit more difficult to control or condemn. Probably the underlying element of poverty and education must be addressed before we can hope to create a homogenous world sexual identity.

    In the case above though, I would have to say that the freedoms and legislation offered in the first world do sometimes also have a price, but as I mentioned earlier, more people are saved by blanket legislation than are victims.

    I would however like to hear what other think about the rights of the indigenous to engage in particular sexual acts that would other wise be deemed “wrong”. Where do we draw the line so to speak in which we can offer the indigenous, their rights and freedoms and yet reduce human rights violations and any subsequent psychological and or physical trauma?

    klauskent

  7. 3 April, 2008 10:32 am

    Hmm, I am not sure that Zhou Daguan, an envoy of the Song court, qualifies as an ethnographer in the contemporary sense.

  8. 5 April, 2008 2:53 am

    Well, while his work was done over 700 years ago it remains (in my opinion) one of the best Ethnographies ever written simply because he was essentially sent to Angkor on what was a clandestine reconnaissance mission. In this way he simply reported what he saw and thus the ethnography is (for the most part) devoid of the usual subjective evaluations that render ethnographic work unreliable. Many such works tell us more about the author than they do about the Culture that is being studied.

    I use Zhou as an example to illustrate sexual acts that (if true) would be extremely virulent to the sensibilities of many of the humans on the Earth today, and even though Zhou is talking about a culture that is over 700 years old- we all know that remote regions and entire cultures still exist today in which sexual practices that would seem odd or bizarre are indeed part of the local hegemony. Their may be legal codes that prohibit such acts, but these societies generally ignore that and the practices are commonly accepted.

  9. 5 April, 2008 3:03 am

    Many such works tell us more about the author than they do about the Culture that is being studied.

    Should read.

    Much ethnographic work tells us more about the author than the culture they are writing about.

  10. 31 August, 2010 10:36 pm

    If you tell any court appointment worker about sexual abuse and you lose custody to your abuser, then you know that your CPS worker or Lawyer or Law Guardian involved in child trafficking Rings. They will bribe the courts to give custody to the batterer and then use the children for their child trafficking rings.

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