I must admit I have a bit of hard time taking Family First seriously. For start any organization that ranks Winston Peters as New Zealand's most "Family Friendly" party leader clearly is a couple of cans short of a six-pack. But more than anything I hate that they think they speak for my family when the advocate policies that have little to do with what my family believes in.
And fuck the sub editor who came up with the title Loose morals costs NZ $1b a year.
I thought that New Zealand had moved on from the 'good old' days when shotgun weddings were the norm for teenagers who found themselves up 'the duff' and didn't go on a mysterious holiday in the country only to return a bit out of shape a few months later. Because apparently according to Family First's Value of the Family report the teenage birth rate reached its peak in 1972, a full year before the DPB was instituted and dropped off significantly over the next decade and has continued to trend downward since then.
But Family First is right. Just because our teenage pregnancy rate has trended downwards doesn't mean that we still don't have a problem with rates of teenage pregnancy. After all New Zealand has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the developed world after the United States. So you'd think that this organization would have a lot to say about preventing teenage pregnancy. Unfortunately it does. Not only does Family First want to replicate Abstinence only sex education that has been such a disaster in the United States but it also doesn't want sex education taught in New Zealand schools because it is "family" (read parents') territory.
In an ideal world parents would tell their kids all they need to know about sex and relationships so the stuff they learn at school would just supplement parents teaching. Unfortunately too many parents don't and neither do our schools. Thus New Zealand has a high teenage pregnancy rate, high abortion rate and high number of STIs. Contrast New Zealand's sorry state of sexual health to the approach taken in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe where kids are taught about sex from a young age in school. Not only do Dutch teenagers have a lower teen pregnancy and abortion rate because they are more likely to use contraception but they also had sex later and with fewer partners. What is more interesting is that Dutch girls take the initiative as often as boys and affection for a partner is the most common reason for their first sexual experience as opposed to curiosity, alcohol or the pressure of others, an interesting contrast to New Zealand where 'ladies' don't have nor enjoy sex while real 'men' constantly want to hump your leg.
Of course Family First's answer to all this mess is marriage at any costs lest we forget that divorce is the cause of $1 billion of unnecessary government spending and the breakdown of society as we know it. Married couples, and married couples only, deserve all sorts of tax breaks and must keep their legal union together at all costs. Yet I can't help wonder what the costs of forcing couples to stay in abusive or dysfunctional relationships and the demon offspring such a union would produce. But what's a bit of domestic abuse between spouses?
Perhaps I am slightly biased about not viewing divorce as a bad thing considering my current partner is counting down the days until his is finalized. Although the ex-wife may be financially worse off than when she was married, she is hardly living a life of poverty. She earns double my salary on top of which she gets a huge chunk of child support and free childcare from her mother. Thus even with a child to support she has far more assets and disposable income than single gal ex-expat because she earns more money than I do. Because contrary to the 'loose morals' brigades belief that being a single parent that makes people poor in and of itself, it is not earning enough money to support yourself and your family that is the problem.
We shouldn't expect social problems like crime and poverty are going to magically go away with a wedding ring like some fucked-up version of Pretty Woman. Real life doesn't work like that. And the sooner we put away our 1950s morality and the Cinderella fantasies that go along with that and actually start dealing with the root causes of poverty; a lack of education, expectation and opportunities, we might actually fix some of problems instead of making them worse. Because if marriage is the answer to all of society's ills, what the hell was the fucking question?
Ht: Cactus Kate