Friday, 24 August 2012

The Julian Assange Affair

Here's my two pennorth on the Julian Assange debate raging at the moment, written hastily so apologies for any errors.

Whereas the recent odious utterances of that supreme self-publicist George Galloway are a replay of previous intemperate comments, I was surprised that Tony Benn has waded in with his opinion. He has said that the allegations are that “it was a non-consensual relationship…. well that’s very different from rape”. Now I don’t know all the facts or the legal nuances but, from what I have read, Assange had gone to bed with one of the women in question and had consensual sex with her, then had woken up and had sex with her without a condom, despite her protestations. That sounds like rape to me.

The thing that’s muddying the waters here is that many believe the charges have been trumped up and/or that the women have been coerced into pressing charges in order to serve the political interests of those in power who find Wikileaks, and therefore Assange, dangerous and/or a threat. And it's a positon that Assange has done nothing to discourage as it serves his interests to conflate the two. This has led to a conflict amongst those who like freedom of speech (as evidenced by Wikileaks) but don’t like rape. Defending the former means making the latter more palatable, hence the comments of George and Tony along the lines of ‘non consensual sex is not the same as rape’. Comments clearly designed to minimise the act and make it more acceptable: comments I find to be intellectually dishonest.  Several writers have pointed out that their stance is reminiscent of Whoppi Goldberg’s comments a few years ago that when film director Roman Polanski gave drugs to and sodomised a 13 year old girl (which he admitted to) it wasn’t ‘rape rape’. Hey, she did look older and he is really good at films, after all…

I take a very simple position on this: non consensual sex is the same as rape. If you’re unsure if someone wants sex, it’s best to ask them. If you’re mature enough to have sex, you’re mature enough to talk about it.

Whether Assange is being pursued for political reasons and the charges are false is a completely different debate. and one which definitely needs to be had. But the debate isn’t whether penetrating somebody who clearly doesn’t want you to is rape or not. That can be answered easily: it is. So please, George Galloway and the rest of you, stop redefining and trivialising rape. Concentrate on the injustices you believe Assange is suffering by all means, but keep the two things separate.

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