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Help A Kid

THE LAW

At the top of the pyramid we have international treaties and protocols. There are only a few of them which are mostly ineffective. However, one private organization (the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children) seems to have been very successful at influencing countries in changing their laws.

Now, let's take a look at such laws. When it comes to the actual letter of the law, a cursory review, again, indicates what is forbidden (in terms of Child Pornography materials) but it does not indicate why, specifically. What is that Child Pornography, specifically, does to children.

Sure enough, sometimes there are general statements such as the following, taken from the "Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography" from the UN which reads:

 "Considering also that the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development,

 Gravely concerned at the significant and increasing international traffic in children for the purpose of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography…"

Which exhibits the characteristic of bundling everything in the same bag. Take a look at how the text is written. Child Pornography is equally bad as child prostitution and the sale of children and child trafficking is at the centre of it all. But we have just seen that this is not the case as most Child Pornography is created by amateurs who do not trade children. Furthermore, the language automatically assumes that Child Pornography creates some sort of damage to children in and by itself in isolation. This is, of course, nonsense as we shall see.

The problem with laws addressing Child Pornography is that they do not explicitly specify why such materials are harmful to children. This is, in and by itself, a curious outcome since specific laws dealing specifically with such material were insisted and insisted upon time and time again. Fine. If this is the case, then the law should also provide the specific, this is specific, reasons why these materials must be outlawed in terms of impacts to children. They can't have it both ways; this is, to be ultra-specific in prohibitions but leaving the actual, specific reasons out. Yet this is precisely what most laws do.

THE TERM PAEDOPHILE

From this point onwards, we will use the term "paedophile" in its common understanding as an active children sexual molester. We will also assume that the term itself is a legal term. We will do so for brevity's sake, however you must be aware that neither is strictly true. There is a large debate in the medical profession as to the correct understanding of the nature, effects and behaviour of people with preferences to pre-pubescent and pubescent children. On the same token, the legal figure is confusing as it oftentimes bundles active child abuses of a sexual nature (i.e. "classic" paedophiles) with non-child abusers but viewers or collectors of Child Pornography (i.e. "passive" paedophiles). A summary of these debates can be found in Wikipedia (Pedophilia).

HARMS

Let's now take a look at the reality of the situation. The law automatically assumes that there is a clear link between Child Pornography and harm to children. So, in order to be comprehensive, let's analyze the harm that Child Pornography may cause to people; adults or children. Just the material, and then we will move on.

Adults

There are actually very few scientific studies (if any) that explain the effects of exposure to such material. This is so because it is obviously very difficult to run such experiments on a scientific basis in our current climate of draconian laws and the definitive possibility that volunteers may be negatively affected. Thus, we must make informed guesses as to the harm to users. Luckily enough, this is not hard to do. It so happens that Child Pornography is a type of pornography and for mainstream pornography we do have studies. Those studies indicate that there may be impacts on sexual functions or relationships however, impacts on domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse seem to be negative (i.e. there is a decrease); there is no effect or the results are inconclusive. In other words, for all the science knows today watching pornography may screw-up your life but nothing more; it has no impact on children, abuse wise. Based on this we can also conclude that watching Child Pornography may have the exact same effects (or lack of thereof) when it comes to children and nothing more.

Children

There are two possible risks of harm. The first one is the possibility that adults viewing Child Pornography suddenly become paedophiles. But this risk does not seem to be supported by scientific studies. Allow us to clarify. Yes, there are studies showing that there is a correlation between child molestation and abuse and using Child Pornography. In other words, paedophiles are large consumers of Child Pornography but the reverse may not be true. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. This seems to be supported by the most recent study which indicates the opposite trend, this is, that the use of Child Pornography actually decreases paedophilic tendencies. Other studies indicate that the users of Child Pornography are quite different from paedophiles and that the use of such materials operating as substitutes for sex crimes actually decreases the physical acts of paedophiles or would-be paedophiles. The viewing and collection of Child Pornography seems to be a good indicator of what a person may wish to do, not what a person will actually do.

We have heard time and time again how Child Pornography has "exploded" with the advent of the Internet and how this spells doom and gloom for children. Yet, even government statistics do not support this point of view. See for example the graph below:

US Data

From it, it is clear that (at least in the US) while Child Pornography exploded, child abuse remained more or less constant or decreased a little bit.

What this is telling us is that the potential harm to children from plain users of Child Pornography is, in all likelihood zero, if not actually beneficial, however strange it may seem.

The second potential harm to children from Child Pornography is the fact that they participate in it. Fair enough, we do recognize that for children participating in the creation of Child Pornography per-se may be traumatic and harmful. Yet, we must entertain two distinct possibilities.

The first one is the willingness of children to participate in the creation of such material. Yes, we are serious. Consider the following facts. There have been anonymous statements in the Internet from "people in the know" which specifically stated that many children involved in the creation of such material for-profit had a mature, business-like attitude. In addition, paedophiles have argued pretty much since ever that children at very young age are sufficiently mature to fully understand and enjoy sex. Also, current (sparse) information seems to indicate that children have become more sexually active and educated. If we also take into consideration that roughly the earliest age of sexual maturity (from a medical standpoint) is about 10 years, a plausible picture begins to emerge. Thus yes, it is possible that children may participate willingly and without harmful effects in the creation of such material. However, is it likely? We don't know as there are no studies.

The second possibility and for argument's sake will assume that the previous scenario is unlikely. Then the question becomes: Is the creation of Child Pornography by itself truly harmful to the wellbeing of children?

The answer in the next section.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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