Child pornography: It's never 'just porn'

Child pornography: It's never 'just porn'

THE Interpol says it as it is - a sexual image of a child is "abuse" or "exploitation", not "pornography".

Pornography is a term used for adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed (mostly) legally to the general public for their sexual pleasure, Interpol adds.

"Child abuse images are not. They involve children who cannot and would not consent and who are victims of a crime."

Child sexual abuse material is "documented evidence of a crime in progress - a child being sexually abused," the international police organisation states on its website, making the act of "partaking" in sexual abuse material a crime.

"Adults who are sexually aroused by these abuse images of children do not care if the child is being abused, or may not even believe that it is the case.

"The adults who view these images also possess and trade this material to fuel their sexual desires towards children and this may result in an offence towards a child they come in contact with," states Interpol.

This is why in its fight against child sexual abuse material online, the Interpol is working to stop calling it "child pornography" as a way to prevent people from thinking it is "acceptable" and "legitimate".

What Mara scholar Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin was caught with - 30,000 explicit images of naked children or children taking part in a sexual act - were definitely "not just porn" and should not be dismissed as a "boys-will-be-boys" silly mistake.

Nur Fitri had willingly participated in what Unicef Malaysia describes as an abhorrent, fastest growing illegal global business that exploits and harm children - it is said to generate more than US$3bil a year with millions of images generated on thousands of sites and accounts.

Urging everyone to combat the view that seeing a child as a sex object for sexual gratification is "normal", Unicef stresses that the child pornography business is one where those who pay most dearly are the children who are exploited.

As the United Nations child rights and protection agency highlights, the advent of the Internet and digital technology has made child pornography even more pervasive, while making it more difficult for authorities to track the growing number of pornographers and their victims.

Now, reports show that a disturbing trend is growing - self produced child pornography or "sexting". The images which range from naively produced to coerced are generated in a number of ways such as scanning, uploading, hidden cameras, domestic sexual abuse, commercial images, child generated responding to sexual demands of others, and activities initiated by children themselves.

As someone who has been working with child abuse victims for a long time, a senior consultant paediatrician at a hospital in Ipoh, Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS urges people not to forget the protection of the children.

"If you watch, download or share these material, you will propagate the victimisation of the children."

As he highlights, we need to also think of who the children whose photos and videos Nur Fitri has in his possesion are; what their circumstances are; who did it to them; and crucially are they being helped?

"Both the Penal Code and the Child Act, based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, are clear as to the gravity of this crime. Children are being taken advantage of and damaged, possibly for life, and we cannot ignore their pleas for our support and protection."

Ultimately, he stresses, we need to give a clear message to other perpetrators that we take this sexual abuse of children seriously, so that others will not be emboldened to act without restraint, says Dr Amar.

Lamenting how some groups in Malaysia are giving the impression that accessing and downloading child sexual abuse material is not a serious offence, Perlis mufti Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin agrees it is time that these heinous acts are called what they are - child sexual abuse.

"It is misleading to call it pornography which is a widespread industry that might involve consenting adults."

He says child sexual abuse is an unforgivable act in Islam.

"No religion allows children and other vulnerable members of the society to be physically and sexually abused, and it is the same in Islam."

A person who is found guilty of the crime will need to serve his due punishment as prescribed by the law, he adds.

"Only when he has served his punishment and undergone rehabilitation, we can assess if he deserves another chance," says Dr Asri, adding that in Islam, everyone deserves another chance if they are sincere in repenting for their crime.

Describing sexual abuse of children as an abhorrent act in islam, Muslim non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram) president Dr Mohd Parid Sheikh Ahmad points out that watching pornographic videos and images is also haram in Islam.

"As a Muslim, you also have to learn to control your sexual urges, and this is something that one needs to learn from young. The sexual abuse of children is torture, exploitative, demeaning and haram. It is a cruel act towards a person who is weaker and not mature."

While Dr Mohd Parid feels that the perpetrator, like any other criminals, deserves a second chance after he has been rehabilitated and justice has been served, he feels that no mercy should be shown before that if the perpetrator is someone who has reached puberty and is of sound mind.

"He should be able to tell between what is right and wrong."

Crucially, says Dr Mohd Parid, this incident could reflect a growing epidemic among young Malaysian Muslims, which needs to be policed and nipped out by everyone in society from parents to police and the religious authorities.

"We have failed in preventing this crime, and we need to do more to ensure others like the Mara student (Nur Fitri) is stopped and given the right guidance and rehabilitation."

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