A Modest Proposal For the Prevention of Social Ills, the Betterment of Society and the Improvement of Public Health and Morals

It is a melancholy object to those who consider the state of society today when they see the number of social ills and problems, ranging from teenage motherhood to the spread of infectious disease, which are caused by unconsidered and rampant sexual promiscuity among the populace, particularly the lower classes and the young.

A cornucopia of copulation information, promulgated through magazines, television advertising and even in the school classroom has proved powerless to stem the tide of careless and feckless sex sweeping the nation. Abortions are at an all-time high, one in ten Britons has a sexually transmitted disease, and pre-teen children are caring for babies instead of Barbies.

Current "sex education" policies have clearly failed to address the issue, and the Government is in thinly-disguised despair as to what action to take next, their only solution being more of the same. I think it is fair to say that anyone who could find a fair, cheap and easy method of transforming the sexual landscape of the country into one more conducive to public health and morals would be well deserving of having a statue set up in his honour.

I therefore propose that sexual intercourse outside of marriage should be made a capital offence.

All parties involved would receive the same sentence, although a woman may redeem herself by reporting the activity promptly and swearing that the sex was not consensual. Her assertion would be automatically accepted unless there were hard evidence to the contrary. This provision would deter sex even in a scenario where both parties appeared to be consenting and willing to keep the secret, because the man would have no guarantee that the woman was not trying to entrap him.

While this might at first seem like a drastic step, this measure is at heart a compassionate one, and would have great social benefits in many areas, as I will now set forth.

As teenagers would not be having sex outside of marriage, the occurrence of "teenage pregnancy" in the normally understood sense would fall to zero. This brings the great social benefits of de-sexualising childhood and allowing boys and girls to focus on their education and growth. Because there would be no short-term sexual component to relationships, young men and women would be encouraged to have more respect for each other. The underclass of single teenage mothers on benefits would be eliminated.

The number of abortions per year (currently 184,000 in the UK) would be drastically reduced due to the decrease in sex between couples who are not looking to have a baby. Thus, the slaughter of thousands of innocent unborns would be avoided - clearly demonstrating the basic humanity of the measure. This would also relieve the NHS of the burden of performing all those operations, freeing up resources to be used to care for the sick.

The enormous decrease in the number of partners per person (to one, in the common case) would cause a similar decrease in the level of sexually-transmitted disease in the population. For those diseases which are solely transmitted sexually, it would be near zero; for diseases like Hepatitis and AIDS, which have other vectors, a background level caused by contaminated blood products and reuse of needles would sadly remain.

The necessary severity of the punishment would be a significant deterrent to some of the worst crimes. Clearly, if any sex outside of marriage is a capital offence, then rape would certainly be. As outlined above, the woman could avoid the death penalty in this non-consensual case by reporting the rape promptly to the police and cooperating with any investigation - including the taking of DNA evidence.

The same deterrence logic applies to paedophilia - a crime apparently so terrible that its prevention has been used in the past to justify many laws and regulations which would otherwise be rejected as too draconian.

Prostitution would be eliminated entirely. For a start, a prostitute would be extremely unlikely to advertise their services or walk the streets for fear of being caught. Even if they could find one, men would not dare to visit a prostitute for fear that she would tell the authorities, claiming the sex was non-consensual. This would emancipate thousands of oppressed women from this destructive lifestyle, and raise the quality of neighbourhoods currently used as red light districts.

The elimination of prostitution would also massively reduce the terrible trade of human trafficking, because most trafficked humans are women being sold into sexual slavery as prostitutes.

While no legal measure can enforce the happiness and stability of a marriage, those children who were born would be much more likely to grow up in the context of a complete family. Studies have consistently shown that children who grow up in this context do better than those from single-parent families and broken homes.

Lastly, the current imbalance between children to be adopted and couples coming forward to adopt would be reversed; fewer children requiring adoption would mean no child would be left unwanted and unloved. The state is a poor parent, and anything which reduces the need for it to play that role should be welcomed.

In short, society would be significantly changed for the better in many clear-cut ways by this proposal. While the basic method of implementation should be self-evident, there are a few practical considerations, to which I will now turn.

It is possible that the introduction of this excellent measure would lead to an initial peak of offenders. Therefore, to avoid a dangerous overcrowding of the prisons, justice would need to be swift. The police should have the power to execute on the spot those caught in flagrante delicto or who tested positive for pregnancy - after all, what more evidence is needed? For other cases, I also suggest abolishing the appeals process as a temporary measure until the new legislation has had time to bed in.

If an unmarried woman becomes obviously pregnant (thereby falling under this statute) but refuses to reveal the identity of the father, paternity testing against a national DNA database would be used to establish parentage. Such testing could be carried out post-mortem for convenience.

The death penalty would be applied to the woman even if she was pregnant at the time. Our society should have no problem with this on the basis of sentimentalism. After all, if the woman can choose to terminate the pregnancy, why can the state not choose to do so? The foetus does not have an opinion on who should and should not be permitted to terminate it - if you allow one person to make that decision, why not others?

It is possible that people might try to evade both the letter and the spirit of this law via a series of short-term marriages. To counter this, pre-nuptial agreements would be made void in law, and a 50-50 split of all assets between husband and wife on divorce would be mandatory. It would also be forbidden to get married more than once a year.

I can think of no objection against this excellent proposal, save perhaps that it is a restriction of civil liberties. However, recently it has become an established principle that such concerns may be set aside for a greater cause, such as the protection of the populace. The laws engendered by the current fight against terrorism are a case in point. If the principle of placing society's good above individual freedom is established, then surely the large number of social benefits outlined above outweigh the minor restrictions on the individual.

I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any proposed alternative which shall be found equally effectual - but as yet, I know of none such. Some have suggested that society can only be transformed by Christians rising up to offer the people a better way - acceptance of the gospel of Christ leading to the borne fruit of sexual respect and fidelity. They propose that existing Christians should actively and urgently share this hope with their neighbours, relatives and friends. But before any idea of that kind can be advanced, let there be some evidence presented that it might speedily be put into practice. At the moment, I see precious little.

So, I must conclude that the situation admits of no other practical remedy. My suggestion is easy to understand, simple to implement, and does not place (in fact, it relieves) a burden on the public purse. I commend it to the House.

(With apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Original URL: http://www.gerv.net/writings/a-modest-proposal/