OPINION: Hot Issue - Should charities associate with 'topless' fundraisers?

Fundraising calendars, pioneered by the famous Rylstone & District Women's Institute, in which people strip but preserve their modesty, have become a dime a dozen in the charity world. But last month, one woman went a step further by baring her breasts on www.vixpix.org to raise funds for the ME Resource Centre.

Jenny Taylor, head of media, Church Mission Society - NO

The film Calendar Girls pointed in the direction of Vix Pix (Third Sector, 28 January) and it was inevitable that someone would see the opportunity to cash in like this for a similar good cause. But the WI calendar did women in general a favour, not just those affected by cancer. It wittily affirmed the beauty of women 'of a certain age' in a society obsessed with youth - and it preserved modesty while having fun in the process.

We are preparing our 2005 campaign to highlight the massive problem of sex trafficking around the world. Western society's increasing shamelessness is not just an issue for the West - flaunting it on the web gives it a global impact, and the global trade in women needs no encouragement from us.

We all collude in the problem of trafficking, unless we safeguard a sense of the integrity of the woman's whole person, mind, body and spirit.

Sangeeta Haindl, director of communications & marketing, Breast Cancer Campaign - YES

When we started to receive enquiries from lap dancers and clubs wishing to fundraise for us, we thought our supporters may have reservations.

So, for clarity, we recently surveyed supporters of both sexes and all ages around the UK, asking: "Should we accept donations from lap dancers, or fundraising activities in which lap dancers have taken part?"

The poll showed that an overwhelming 69 per cent thought we should accept this type of donation. They told us that we shouldn't choose who could fundraise for us when breast cancer itself doesn't discriminate against who it attacks. Edna Meek, 75, from Dorset, said: "We shouldn't set ourselves up as moral guardians, it's our responsibility to raise as much money as possible."

Having completed this survey, we now treat all approaches from lap dancers just as we do any other corporate enquiry. We assess them on a case-by-case basis and act accordingly.

I leave you with the thoughts of Sinem Suphi, 35, from Kent.

"It's good for people to be made aware that women, like me, who have lost their breasts can still accept and carry on with life, without hitting out at people that are confident enough to make money from their bodies."

Paul Farmer, director of public affairs, Rethink - NO

People will do the strangest things for charity, and that is entirely their choice. Some of them are fantastically successful precisely because they are close to the edge - just look at the now world-famous WI Calendar.

Equally, there are occasions where the explicit use of body parts to promote a particular cause can not only raise funds but also much-needed awareness about a sensitive issue. Bowel cancer and testicular cancer campaigns in particular have also gone close to the edge in an attempt to make people think and act.

But the question is, where is the edge? We all fall back on a line of taste and decency, but it should also be about relevance. I cannot see Rethink running a 'tits-out' campaign because it is pretty hard to see the connection, it is on the edge of good taste and could be offensive to some supporters who may not want to see us associated with it.

Mental health charities sometimes run 'head-related' campaigns because there is an anatomical link to the cause. For us it is about getting close enough to the edge to make people notice the cause, but not so that people can only see the controversy.

Kim Olivier, development manager, Deafblind UK - YES ...

... just so long as it is legal and does not offend the majority of the public.

It is not our function to be custodians of the nation's morals and sensibilities - there are other organisations that do that. We are here to raise money to help deafblind people, so, as long as accepting money from the exploitation of flesh is not likely to rebound negatively in some other way, then we would accept it.

There is always, of course, a slight concern that if this type of fundraising took off, the boundaries might be pushed further and further, and that there might be more serious ethical dilemmas in the future. For example, what would happen if someone had the idea of creating a calendar full of 18-year-old schoolgirls? Where does it stop?

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