How things work: the well-known group that calls itself Human Rights Watch doesn’t like conservative sexual attitudes. One result of those attitudes in the Philippines is a low HIV rate (in a nation of 80,000,000 people, a total of 2,000 known and an additional 4,000 estimated infections). Another is that the Filipino government accommodates cultural and Catholic sensibilities by abstaining from a wholly technological and therefore libertine attitude toward sex, and focuses its prevention efforts on high-risk groups like prostitutes and homosexuals.
So what does HRW do? It issues a report accusing the Filipino government of “pandering” to the Catholic Church. The report complains that failure to promote condoms is a human rights violation, because it’s unhealthy, and health is a human right. There’s not much AIDS in the Philippines now, but maybe there will be more in the future unless everyone has condoms.
The complaint is an odd one. On similar grounds any policy with which one disagrees would be a human rights violation, since any policy that doesn’t promote the common good violates the human right to a government that works for the common good. Be that as it may, it’s extremely obscure why viewing sex as basically a matter of technology would make it better, from a health or any other point of view. Aren’t things really more complicated than that? Nonetheless, it’s an attitude toward which our governing elites are uniformly committed. Perhaps by chance, it’s also one that helps well-placed people get their own way, in sexual as in other matters, and indeed strengthens their position generally by disordering the family, local cultural standards, and other informal and traditional authorities that simply by existing compete with formal institutions and limit their power..
Meanwhile, on other fronts having to do with sex, the San Francisco Chronicle is in a snit because the founder of Curves (the chain of ordinary-user-friendly women’s exercise clubs) has been giving money to pregnancy crisis centers that a somewhat radical pro-life group says it likes, the chief of Selective Service wants to draft women, and my college alumni mag concluded its most recent issue with a heartwarming human-interest interview with an alumnus who’s in the pornographic video biz out in LA.