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Mothers have so many things to look out for when it comes to protecting their children. They try to keep them from germs, falling and hurting themselves, electric sockets, hot stoves, strangers, and unfortunately any male who isn’t their father—and even that is tricky sometimes.

In the world of parenting , there’s sort of an unspoken assumption that all men have the potential to be sexually inappropriate with a young child. It’s the reason mothers tell their daughters not to sit on Uncle John’s lap, or why their kids can’t have a play date at neighbor so and so’s house if their mother isn’t home, and why male babysitters and daycare providers are virtually non-existent. It’s a precaution many feel is necessary given the alternative of not being overly zealous in protecting your child. And surprisingly, some airlines have gotten on board with the idea.

In an article on TheAge.com, a reporter details the story of a male nurse aboard Australian airline Quantas who was seated beside a female passenger he estimated to be about 10 years in age. After the safety demonstration, a flight attendant asked the man to move to another seat and when he asked why, he was told it was the policy of Qantas (and many other airlines) not to have men sit next to unaccompanied children. A woman then took the man’s old seat, and according to the passenger’s account when they deboarded the plane, she was thanked for moving to his old spot, while his being forced to take a new seat wasn’t acknowledged at all. To make matters worse, he said passengers stared at him throughout the entire flight wondering why the flight attendant asked him to move to begin with. In a nutshell, the entire experience was humiliating, and the policy itself clearly discriminatory, unfair, and bias, but the question is, is it justifiable?

As Jezebel points out in their analysis of the situation, airlines who take on this type of stance are likely doing so less from a save the children perspective and more as a liability deterrent.  Quoting Ashley Harrell of SF Weekly, the site notes “Although an airplane full of potential witnesses may seem an unlikely place for a child to be molested, criminal and civil lawyers who have handled these cases say that the controlled and confined yet anonymous environment is well suited for a child predator.” Furthermore, in all the reported plane molestation cases that have occurred over the past decade, adult males were involved. That makes this precaution start to look more like a necessary one than a witch hunt.

Of the 41,000 people who have taken The Age’s poll asking where they stand on Quantas’ policy of moving men who are next to unaccompanied children, 81% disagree with it. I’m willing to bet most of those respondents aren’t mothers, because we all know most of them would stop at virtually nothing to protect their child from even the hint of a perceived threat. But there is still an issue of needing to find a better way to prevent potential in-flight molestation from happening without embarrassing innocent men in the process and essentially labeling them as child molesters or “kiddie fiddlers” as the male nurse described — even if it is a label that only sticks with them for the duration of the flight.

Unless we’re talking about airlines like Southwest where your chosen seat is sort of first come, first served, I imagine there’s something airlines can do on the back-end with all of the information they compile on passengers when they purchase seats. Since airlines now have the age and gender of their passengers, they should leave the seating up to them and not place men next to unaccompanied children at that point. Of course that could cut back on opportunities for passengers to upgrade their seats, which I’m sure would expose just how much these airlines value child safety over a few extra bucks. But I think there is a way to still insert precautions to avoid in-flight molestation while also not being so blatantly discriminatory against men, not to mention naïve to the fact that women can be pedophiles as well.

What do you think about airline policies that don’t allow men to sit next to unaccompanied children?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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