America's unjust sex laws

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Individual American politicians have great latitude to propose new laws. Stricter curbs on paedophiles win votes. And to sound severe, such curbs must be stronger than the laws in place, which in turn were proposed by politicians who wished to appear tough themselves. Few politicians dare to vote against such laws, because if they do, the attack ads practically write themselves. In all, 674,000 Americans are on sex-offender registries. [...] According to Human Rights Watch, at least five states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, 29 require it for consensual sex between young teenagers and 32 require it for indecent exposure. [...]

Janet Allison was found guilty of being "party to the crime of child molestation" because she let her 15-year-old daughter have sex with a boyfriend. The young couple later married. But Ms Allison will spend the rest of her life publicly branded as a sex offender. [...] Registration is often just the start. Sometimes sex offenders are barred from living near places where children congregate. In Georgia no sex offender may live or work within 1,000 feet (300 metres) of a school, church, park, skating rink or swimming pool. [...]

However practical and just the case for reform, it must overcome political cowardice, the tabloid media and parents' understandable fears. Other countries, though, have no excuse for committing the same error. Sensible sex laws are better than vengeful ones.

source: Article 'America's unjust sex laws'; www.economist.com/node/14165460?story_id=14165460; The Economist; 6 August 2009