Eradicating Pedophilia: Toward the Humanization of Society

By O'Grady, Ron | Journal of International Affairs, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Eradicating Pedophilia: Toward the Humanization of Society


O'Grady, Ron, Journal of International Affairs


"As we enter the 21st century our best efforts must be directed toward the humanization of society through the nurture of our children."

Globalization has brought about dramatic changes in social attitudes. As confirmation, one can compare the way the world regards the commercial sexual exploitation of children today with that of only a decade ago. A review of news reports and magazine articles around 1990 offers sparse evidence that an extensive trade in child sex existed in any part of the world. The media focused largely on domestic abuse, as the possibility that the prostitution of children occurred had not been widely considered. The phrase "child sex tourism" did not yet enter our lexicon. And the word "pedophile" was rarely seen in print.

The reasons for this have been well canvassed. The sexual abuse of children has always been one of the least understood of all crimes. Even hardened criminals accept an unwritten code of relativity by which some crimes are more acceptable than others. Once in prison, the child abuser is the most despised of all and is often persecuted to the point where he has to be kept in solitary confinement for his own protection. Moreover, society at large finds it difficult to accept the existence of such people within the community who systematically prey on vulnerable children. As a consequence, child abuse had been surrounded by a culture of denial.

In the past, when a teacher, priest or youth leader was found to be abusing children, the organizations involved simply moved the offender to another position and kept the whole episode hidden from the media. Concern for the organization over-rode any concern for the damage the abuser had done and would continue to do to children.

Today, child sex abuse is far more prevalent than anyone had realized. Courts of law in North America and Europe are flooded with civil cases against sex abusers--some of whom committed the crime 30 or more years ago. Similarly, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is now openly discussed and recognized as a major social problem. For the first time in history, social workers, law enforcement officers and governments have initiated a serious of investigations into this previously hidden aspect of society.

The globalization of the flow of information gave impetus to this impressive movement against the commercial child sex trade. The Internet quickens our interest in events around the world and provides tools for responding to situations of injustice, wherever they occur. It gives the possibility of instant global communication the capability to counter an area of crime that is now largely international. The Internet alerts people to the pervasiveness of sexual deviation within different societies, permits nations to cooperate on a global level and protects the future of the world. Yet, for all the benefits the Internet provides, it also has its drawbacks, especially providing a vehicle to spread child pornography quickly. As will be discussed later, increasing ties among nations provides the pedophile with the opportunity to hide from the immediate community, to operate within residence, to encounter a global network of like-minded individuals and worst of all, to discover an endless supply of victims.

CHANGES IN APPROACH

Among the significant catalysts towards collective efforts, two events should be noted: the first evolved out of an investigation in Thailand and the second arose through a United Nations resolution.

A small consultation in 1990 helped bring the issue of child prostitution into prominence. A little-known non-governmental organization in Thailand initiated research into rumors that children were being kept in brothels in many parts of Asia. The Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism, a small church organization based in Thailand that was set up to monitor tourism in Asia, contracted social workers in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Taiwan, as well as Thailand, to investigate the situation. …

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