There is an interesting story below about airlines that force men to switch seats when they are seated next to an unaccompanied child out of fear that they could be child molesters. A firefighter recounts how he was forced to move on a Virgin Australia flight because there was a child next to him. Qantas has actually defended the discriminatory policy.
Ironically, some male travelers may silently relish the idea of never having to sit next to a minor on flights, but most would be insulted by the stereotype underlying the policy.
Women are actually statistically more likely to abuse a child overall. Three-fifths (61.8%) of perpetrators in one study were female. However, in fairness, it should be noted that women are more likely to be caregivers and around children. Moreover, this is for any form of abuse as opposed to sexual abuse. Males are higher in that category. However, the study below found that roughly 30 percent of perpetrators of sexual assault of minors were female. In the category ages up to 18, the percentage went to 40 percent. Another study found the rate to be 20 percent. Overall, studies show that child sexual abuse fell more than 60 percent from 1992 to 2010. The New York Times reported last month that from 1990 to 2010, for example, substantiated cases of sexual abuse dropped from 23 per 10,000 children under 18 to 8.6 per 10,000, a 62 percent decrease, with a 3 percent drop from 2009 to 2010.
Studies can vary, of course, but the question is whether this is based on stereotypical or statistical foundations.
In the case of the Daniel McCluskie, 31, the move not only left people staring at him but the attention got worse after the flight attendant thanked a woman who they asked to move to take his seat next to a ten-year-old girl. McCluskie is a senior nurse at the local health district in Wagga Wagga.
A spokesman stated that “Qantas’s policy is consistent with other airlines around the world and is designed to minimise risk. The policy reflects parents’ concerns and the need to maximise the child’s safety and well-being.” That is news to me since I just flew back to Washington from Salt Lake City with an unaccompanied 12 year old girl. We talked about her sports and the sports of my four kids for the entire flight. If anything, I would insist that she was a bad influence on me. We ended up making fun of the fact that the pilot seemed unable to say double digits numbers and would instead say “one four” for “fourteen.” It was a wonderfully juvenile flight.
Qantas says that there is usually no problems because it intentionally reallocates seats to avoid males sitting next to unaccompanied children before take off.
British Airways was sued in 2010 for this ridiculous policy and agreed to change it pursuant to the Sex Discrimination Act. However, the airline now seats unaccompanied children in their own area.
Frankly, these policies appear more about hysteria than fact. There is always a danger of crime and I must admit to be an overly protective parent with my kids particularly at malls and similar locations. However, to assume males are a such a clear and present danger to children is insulting and unsupported in my view.
What is really interesting is that I told my wife about this policy this morning expecting that she would share my view that the policy is an outrageous act of discrimination and insulting to men. Despite her consistent liberal views, Leslie was actually ambivalent and felt it was better to err on the side of caution by moving the child or the male. Leslie is uncomfortable with a 100 percent rule but still is ambivalent about the general policy.
My mother-in-law Suzanne was a flight attendant for 20 years and never saw a case of molestation against a minor. On United, they never enforced such a rule. Suzanne does not agree with the Qantas policy.
What do you think?
Here is the study referenced above: Forge Study