But if the Charter guarantee of free association is to mean anything sensible at all, surely first and foremost it must guarantee the rights of individuals not to be compulsorily assimilated into larger groups merely by being outvoted. After all, if two men corner a woman in a dark alley and force her to have sex with them because they, the majority, have voted in favour of it, that would still be rape, not the exercise of their group right to freedom of association.
That’s the quote posted on Facebook by ACT On Campus that’s caused outrage, apparently.
They’ve been accused of “trivialising sexual assault”. NZUSA’s response is:
Act on Campus need to think twice before comparing their experience as members of student associations to the traumatising experience of sexual assault.
No one has compared their experience as members of a student association to the traumatising experience of sexual assault.
What the Canadian article did was use an extreme example of how a majority vote cannot justify something that everyone agrees is wrong is similar enough in form to compulsory union membership that if you agree that a majority decision wouldn’t justify rape, you must agree that “it’s a majority decision” cannot be the sole justification of compulsory membership in a group.
Whether or not you agree with the argument, that is the argument. Rape was obviously chosen because everyone agrees that it is always wrong, and there’s no need for any extra verbiage explaining that it’s wrong.
NZUSA’s Caitlin Dunham does actually attempt to address the analogy, saying that the situations are different because you can opt out of most student associations, but women cannot opt out of rape. Well, the original article was about Canadian laws that force all employees to pay union dues whether or not they join a union, so there’s no opting out in the original example, though ACT on Campus could be criticised that therefore the situations between NZ student associations and Canadian labour laws are too different for the link to be relevant.
But whether or not the analogy works, the point is that they were not saying that compulsory membership is as bad as rape, or that rape is as trivial as compulsory membership, and yet practically all of the reporting and official responses from various organisations seem to act like they did.