Saturday, February 24, 2007

Albert Benschop

Criteria: The American Ministry of Justice employs five criteria to decide whether an image can be considered to be pornographic: "They must focus on the genital area, show unnatural poses, depict children as sex objects, imply that the children are willing to engage in sex, and have a suggestive setting."

In societies with a somewhat developed civilization child pornography is usually a moral stumbling block of the first degree. When children are misused for the enjoyment of adults almost everybody immediately has the feeling that a moral limit is passed. The distribution of child pornographic images via the internet has therefore been the subject of heated discussions for years. Although the —for that matter very small— demand for child pornography remains, there is hardly anyone who dares defend the production and distribution of such visual material in public. This isn't strange in a country where child pornography is a social taboo and criminally forbidden.

In this article an overview is presented of the ways in which child-pornographic images are distributed via the internet. In Regulation and Self-Regulation of the Internet (in Dutch), and more in particular in Regulation of CyberPorno (in Dutch) an analysis is presented on how these practices can be suppressed.

Childporno is not the same as pictures of nude children. Childpornographic material is the evidence of a crime, i.e. sexual abuse of children. The legal definition of childporno in the Netherlands is “a picture of someone who apparently hasn't reached the age of sixteen yet, alone or with someone else in a pose intended to arouse sexual stimulation”. A picture of a pose of a nude child as such doesn't fall under the penalty clause, even if there are persons who may be sexually stimulated due to their inclination. Therefore, the crux of the legal definition of childporno isn't that the picture is primarily made and distributed in order to arouse others sexually, but the protection of the minor against sexual exploitation [the Dutch minister of justice, W. Sorgdrager, Memorandum to article 240b, 20.2.95]. The Dutch legislation concerning this point is extensively described in Regulation of Cyberporno (in Dutch).

Children who are depicted in childpornographic pictures and films are involved in sexual acts and are manipulated by the photographer or filmmaker in such a way that they satisfy a whole range of fantasies. The portrayed children seldom show signs of aversion or disgust; they usually look cheerful or neutral. This reinforces the rationalization and justification processes for the sexual interest in children by adults for a large audience. The children are depicted as 'willing sexual beings'. Yet, every childpornographic representation starts with the sexual abuse of a child. Behind every picture hides an abused child.

No reliable statistics are available of the number of children that are victimized by childporno, nor of the number of productions or consumers [Frenken 1997]. Childpornography is produced behind closed doors. All participants compel each other to secrecy because they can all be blackmailed. For victims of childporno or childprostitution it is usually very difficult to come forward with their story. Not seldom are they threatened by the perpetrators who operate in the scene of organized crime. According to Unicef several millions of children and youngsters are sexually exploited worldwide. According to an estimate of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1998 10 million children are used as sex objects by adults worldwide. Increasingly younger children are involved — starting with babies of a few months old.