The Daily Beast reports a fascinating story from the Netherlands. It goes to the heart of a freedom of expression issue that remains incredibly controversial. Can – and should – you be free to advocate paedophilia? Or rather ‘inter-generational sex’? It is a question that a Dutch court answered affirmatively this week.
At the heart of the case was a Dutch campaign group called Vereniging Martijn.
The earlier District Court decision (see here) shared the view of the Public Prosecution Service that the group website propagated:
‘(i) children are sex objects. This is shown in the material offered on the web pages of the website, which can have no other intention than to be sexually stimulating. For that purpose, images of children posed in provocative and sexually-tinted positions are shown on the web pages and texts explicitly describing sexual contact between adults and children are published on web pages;
(ii) there is nothing wrong with sexual contact between adults and children. In this context the position is taken in articles that the prohibition of sexual relationships between adults and children is the very thing that harms children. It is also propounded in articles that children want to have sexual contact with adults, that is why children seek that sexual contact and that children would really like their parents to applaud that sexual contact;
(iii) sexual contact between adults and children should be glorified. To that end, descriptions are given of how fine and beautiful sexual contacts and relationships are, not only for the adult but also for the child;
(iv) criminal convictions for sex crimes with children are absurd
(v) sexual contact between adults and children is very “natural”, children seek, want and like that sexual contact, sexual contact and manufacture of child pornography is not necessarily harmful for children.’
The successful appeal of the case reverses the decision to ban the group. Nonetheless, it’s arguably too late to repair the damage done to the group. The Daily beast reports that ‘at the height of its activities, Martijn had 650 members, published a quarterly magazine and hosted a website featuring chat rooms, forums, and news archives on pedophilia-related stories.’
That’s now down to around 65 members. The leader of the campaign group has also indicated that he (perhaps unsurprisingly) wants to step down. The Daily Beast article concludes: ‘He spends his days playing videogames at home: “No one will hire me,” he says. He survives on his father’s inheritance and his partner’s paycheck. But he’ll continue fighting for the rights of pedophiles.’
The difficulty – touched upon by jurisprudence academic Roel Schutgens from the Radboud University in the Daily Beast piece – is whether they cross into promoting illegality. Which it seems they don’t. Just because you advocate a change in the law does not mean that you advocate law breaking. Nonetheless, it seems that political parties in the Netherlands haven’t given up and are looking at legislative measures to ban the group.
I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this.