1.1 Child pornography is not as difficult a concept as some have made it out to be, although there may be differences in the way it is defined in different countries. However, any differences that may exist relate to, mainly, two aspects:
1.2 Child pornography is, simply, evidence of the abuse of a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation and sexual gratification. It not only describes, in words or pictures, a serious crime against a child but constitutes, in and of itself, a criminal offence. In other words, the abuse or exploitation of a child for any sexual purpose is a criminal offence and any description or picture of such sexual abuse and exploitation is also a criminal offence. However, child pornography refers to descriptions or pictures of the sexual abuse and exploitation of a child and not to the actual act of abuse.
1.3 Mostly child protection practitioners, including law enforcement agencies, who have to deal with child pornography agree that the expression “child pornography” does not adequately describe the nature of this despicable crime against children. It is a misleading term because child pornography is not about “pornography” but, simply, the evidence of serious sexual assaults and abuse of children, including , as shocking as it sounds, the penetrative sexual assault of children as young as 6 months. Uninformed commentators on the subject, including members of the judiciary, have failed to grasp an essential truth about child pornography: that it cannot be produced without a child being sexually abused and that its creation and distribution leads to the sexual abuse of more children to satisfy the demand for such pictures. Child pornography is not pornography with child subjects and is an inappropriate term to describe the true nature and extent of sexually exploitive images of child victims. The correct term is “child abuse images”, which is a more accurate description of this plague in our society, as anyone who has had the misfortune to actually see such images would agree. There is no “pornography” in “child pornography” – there is only the sexual assault, torture, the maiming, brutalisation and even murder of young children.
1.4 In terms of South African law, “child pornography” is any picture, regardless of how it was created, or any description, of a real or imaginary person who is under the age of 18 years, or is represented as being under the age of 18 years-
2.1 Child pornography is a highly secretive and clandestine activity. It is difficult to say, accurately, how widespread it is but we do have some indications from cases which have been investigated and prosecuted. One such case is that of the “Wonderland Club”, which was investigated and led to the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of members of this notorious 'club'.
'Operation Cathedral' was the name given to the investigation of the “Wonderland Club”, an operation that involved over 1 500 police officers breaking down doors of the homes of suspects in 12 countries on 2 September 1998 – all at exactly the same time. It was described as the world’s largest child pornography network, and the police seized 750 000 images and over 1 800 digitised video clips of children being sexually abused and tortured. The images were so disturbing that all the police officers involved had to undergo compulsory debriefing with a psychologist because of the harm they might have suffered through viewing tens of thousands of images of abused children, many of them of infant toddlers. Police estimate that the number of images is much higher because they did not manage to identify and arrest all the members of the “club”. However, an indication of the number of images involved may be gained from the fact that, in order to join this “club”, you had to submit, to the “club”, 10 000 original images of child abuse.
2.2 Current estimates of the number of child abuse images available on the Internet runs into the millions. BT, a UK Internet service provider, recently reported that it blocks an average of about 35 000 attempts to access child pornography every day in the UK alone. It is estimated that that there are over 20 000 Internet websites devoted exclusively to child abuse images, not including “adult porn” websites that may also child pornography - an internet plague contain child pornography.
2.3 The proper question to ask is how many children have been abused to create the millions of child abuse images that may be found on the Internet? Do “smaller numbers” make this crime less abhorrent? The point is not that only one or two or even a hundred children have been abused and have had their lives destroyed permanently. The point is that a child has been abused, and others will continue to be abused, for the sexual gratification of the few perverted and depraved in our society. And for the millions of dollars in profits that many are making from the trade in this sordid business.
4.1 Paedophiles and child abusers use child pornography-
4.2 Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. While accurate figures are difficult to come by, the case of Thomas and Janice Reedy, a Texas couple convicted on child pornography charges in 2001, offers an idea of the amount of money involved in the child pornography trade. Thomas Reedy was a nurse who realised there was more money to be made in pornography and therefore set up an Internet adult pornographic business, called Landslide Productions. However, he soon realised that there was more money to be made from child pornography and within two years, his company had over `250 000 child pornography customers from across the world, including Pete Townshend, the legendary “pop” star, now serving a 3-year sentence in Vietnam for the sexual abuse of underage females. Between 1996 and 1999, Landslide Productions took in $8.5 million from child pornography, compared to the $1.5 million it took in from adult pornography! Incidentally, Thomas Reedy was sentenced to a total of 1 335 years imprisonment – 15 years on each of the 89 counts he was convicted of, while his wife was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. It was reported that Thomas Reedy’s sentence was reduced, on appeal, to 800+ years! Landslide Productions, the company Reedy formed, was sentenced to pay a fine of $6 950 970.28 . According to Quick Facts (2004), the child pornography industry is worth $2-3 billion dollars and that in excess of 20 000 child abuse images are posted on the Internet each week.
6.1 Child pornography is inherently harmful to children and to society. Children’s rights are not limited only to the rights set out section 28 of the Constitution – Children’s Bill of Rights - but includes every right guaranteed to “every person”. All children are entitled to the right to human dignity and the very existence of expressions which are degrading, demeaning and dehumanising, on their own, violate the dignity and equality rights of children. “Expression that degrades or dehumanises is harmful in and of itself as all members of society suffer when harmful attitudes are reinforced. The possibility that pornographic representations may be disseminated creates a heightened risk of harm.”
6.2 Collectors of child pornography stimulate the demand not only for more child abuse images but for more violent images of younger and younger children. Child pornography, in effect, creates child pornography and leads to the abuse and torture of more innocent children.
6.3 The correlation between the collection of child pornography and the actual sexual abuse of children is sufficiently high to conclude that a collector will become a child abuser. In a study of persons arrested for computer-related offences against children in the US, 40% of those convicted were “dual offenders” – they were both collectors of child pornography and actual abusers of children .
6.4 Prohibiting the possession of child pornography is intended to reduce the market for such material. If the consumption of child pornography is reduced, the production and the abuse of children will be reduced. “The production of child pornography is fuelled by the market for it, and the market in turn is fuelled by those who seek to possess it. Criminalising possession may reduce the market for child pornography and the abuse of children it often involves.”
The Internet is the medium of choice for the distribution of child abuse images. If you download child pornography from the Internet, you would, in fact, be charged with two offences:
The Films and Publications Act does not distinguish between child pornography created by using actual children and those created out of one’s imagination. South African law is not “victim-harm based” – child pornography is illegal regardless of the manner of its creation. As far as South Africa is concerned, material that is illegal does not simply become legal because it is created by a different means.
15.1 Children, especially younger children, are not suspicious of the motives of even strangers and are incapable of recognising danger signs. Talk to your child about paedophiles and child molesters and about “stranger danger”. They should know to never get into a car with a stranger. Never accept gifts and sweets from strangers. Never trust any person they do not know offering rides or gifts or trying to be friendly. Your child must trust you enough to be able to talk to you about anything that makes her or him feel uncomfortable, especially if it concerns strangers. Remind your child, as a general rule, that nobody but a doctor is allowed to touch or examine her or his body. You owe it to your child to know enough about paedophiles and child abusers to protect her or him from becoming another victim.
15.2 In so far as protecting your child from becoming of a victim of Internet predators – computer sex offenders – the following tips may help-
Parents often fail to recognise signs that their child is being sexually abused, even when the abuser is their partner or spouse. However, sometimes a child who is being abused will behave in a way that suggests sexual abuse.
“Look into the eyes of a child who has been sexually abused and you'll see pain - a pain that endures long after the bruises have healed. This pain is compounded by child molesters who create images of the sexual abuse and share them with other child molesters. They trade them in chat rooms and post them on thousands of Web sites. These people are making money from the pain and suffering of children.”
23.1 Paragraph 3 above describes how paedophiles and child molesters use child pornography.
23.2 The aim of the prohibitions on the creation, distribution and possession of child pornography is to prevent harm to children and society itself.
23.3 This report by Michael S Malone of ABC News sums up what child pornography is all about-
“You may think you know what the child pornography industry is, but, no matter how cynical you are, you do not. Yes, it is naked children exposing themselves. But it is worse than that. It is adults having sex with children, even babies. But it is worse than that. It is the rape and torture of little children.
“But, as hard as it may be to accept, it is even worse than that. A couple of years ago, there was the arrest of an Italian-pederast ring that was taking orders from customers to kidnap Russian orphans according to pre-specified characteristics, like hair colour, then torture and kill them on camera for posting on the Web.
“This is the very heart of darkness. These are images that are more than shocking and repulsive. They kill your soul because you know that every poor child you see on these sites is dead, if not now at the hands of a sadist, then decades from now from drugs, alcoholism or suicide… The pictures first make you sick, then angry, and finally homicidal… This is not somebody else’s problem but ours…”
You can download a copy of these FAQs in PDF format here:
Child Pornography FAQs
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