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Freedom of Choice
People should have the right to choose. Freedom of choice is one of the most important liberties enjoyed by Canadian citizens. Why, then, do some people think that it is within the function of the law to restrict such "choices" as sexual orientation, abortion of foetuses, and pornography? As stated in the Wolfenden report, "[the function of the law] is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive and injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others.[i]" The law has no place in the private lives of citizens. What people do in their own homes should be their own business, and unless it harms somebody, the law should not be able to interfere. As long as peoples' actions have no negative effect on themselves or anyone else, the law should have no say regarding their behaviour.
The most ridiculous legal case to arise in recent years involving the struggle to decide whether or not morality can be made law is Lawrence v. Texas (1998). The case centres on the Texas law stating that sodomy, even consensual, within a homosexual relationship an offence. Stated the case's Chief Justice William Rehnquist, "Almost all laws are based on disapproval of some people or some conduct. That's why people regulate.[ii]" If a law against an action such as consensual sex can be based on disapproval of conduct, then why not make laws saying that it is illegal to be Anglican based on the fact that one person disapproves of drinking wine in a church? If the Canadian Charter of Rights can state that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability,[iii]" why can they deny this right to homosexuals? If this charter were truly fair, it would include "sexual orientation" right between "religion" and "sex." Sexual orientation has no negative effect on anyone, except perhaps for the fact that some are put off by the idea of it. Some people, though, are put off by the idea of sex in general. Does this mean it should be made illegal? What people do in the privacy of their homes, and more specifically, their bedrooms, should have no place being legislated, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Pornography is, needless to say, not enjoyed by everyone. Some regard it as disgusting and degrading to women. Few, though, can successfully argue that it causes physical harm to anyone who watches it. For the people who do watch pornography and enjoy it, it is a valid form of entertainment. The restriction of pornography to those who are eighteen years of age and older is justified. While some people younger than this may have the maturity to watch or look at images of a pornographic nature, generally it is safe to say that many younger people could not handle the graphic nature of the content. Aside from the age restriction, anyone is free to view pornography or not. It does not hurt anyone to watch or not to watch. Some may be offended by the content, but if they do not want to watch it, that is their decision. Another issue which arises within this one is that of child pornography. Pornography made with "actors" over the age of eighteen is fine, but when people begin to take advantage of children, there is a line that is drawn. Children who are photographed or videotaped in compromising positions are often too young to understand what they are doing, so they are taken advantage of. Making and selling child pornography may not be physically harmful to the children (although it could be potentially), but being involved in such activities, forced or not, can and often does have serious psychological effects on these individuals later on in their lives. While child pornography can cause long-term harm, regular "legal" pornography is not harmful to anyone. The people involved have consented to the activities portrayed and are mature and old enough to understand the decisions they are making. People who choose watch and look
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Libertarian theory, Autonomy, Rights, Wolfenden, Liberty, Choice, Freedom of choice, Pornography
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