9 Ways to Halt the Right Wing Culture Wars and Bring Sanity to Sexual Policy
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In response to vocal public outrage over the apparent ubiquitous presence of offenders “free” in their community, state goverments are pushing far-reaching civil confinement law. With its passage earlier this year, New York joined nineteen other states that permit the continued imprisonment of sex offenders after they have completed their sentence. Civil confinement permits the state to transform a criminal sentence with a specified duration into an indeterminate life sentence.
The President-elect and the Congress should initiate a two-front educational campaign that addresses the issue of sexual offenders. The first front would be directed to the general public and help deal with the widespread fear about the actual threat represented by sex offenders. It can also inform participants about the realities of childhood sexuality. Thus, it can dispel many popular myths, like sex crime is on the increase. It can help the public recognize sexual abuse and assess the experiences of both the victim and perpetrator of such behavior. Equally important, such a campaign would include a “professional” component made up of thoughtful representatives from appropriate federal agencies, law enforcement groups, criminology, public interest and legal organizations, psychology and other fields that addresses the issues of sex offenders.
The output from such a “blue ribbon” committee could lead to legislative, law-enforcement and clinical recommendations that could help America finally address the problem of sex offenders. It would be an invaluable contribution by the Obama administration and a progressive Congress.
Proposal #9: Reform, Extend & Strengthen PEPFAR
President-elect Obama should move quickly to adopt Congress’ revision of the Bush administration’s PEPFAR programs (for President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Bush first promulgated it in his 2003 State of the Union address, declaring: "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." And it did.
PEPFAR, the centerpiece effort for U.S. “soft” foreign diplomacy, suffers the same failures as other Bush-administration programs that deal with cultural values, including abortion and teen sex education. It is intended to improve the care, treatment and prevention of those suffering from HIV/AIDS in developing countries. While limitedly successful, for anything is better then nothing, it could never achieve its true potential because of its ideological blinders. Put simply, its prevention efforts are inhibited by its restrictions on condoms.
Earlier this year Congressed passed legislation reauthorizing PEPFAR (HR-5501). It allocates $50 billion for PEPFAR over the next five years, rejected White House efforts to hold funding to $30 billion. It also removed a requirement that at least one-third of HIV prevention funds went to abstinence-until-marriage programs. It signals a new PEPFAR.
The new 111th Congress should quickly pass this reauthorization legislation and the new president should sign it. It will signal not only a change in foreign health-care policy and “soft” diplomacy, but perhaps a change in overall international relations as well. Of course, the great-unanswered questions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,Iraq and Palestine-Israel remain to be addressed.