Paedophilia and molesting a child are not the same thing.
It’s very difficult to have a balanced discussion about this; paedophilia is the epitome of evil in our society, a symbol of revulsion. I hold the belief that it is an illness, not a crime, and therefore those accused should be treated, not punished. However, drawing such a sharp contrast between these two positions is not helpful; what constitutes normal behaviour? What is abnormal? Cultural ideas and beliefs are fluid and ever-changing. I mean, homosexuality used to be a criminal offence! That seems utterly mad to us now, so we must ask, will the criminal label on paedophilia seem just as crazy in 50 years time?
Imagine a man who, now in his 30s, has been tortured all his adult life by inner feelings and urges, sexual urges, for children. Never has he acted on them, and has done no harm to any child. He has now decided to seek the help of a psychiatrist, to confront his feelings and perhaps find a way to rid his mind of these disgusting desires. As he begins to open up, the doctor’s expression makes him feel less like a patient seeking help, and more like a criminal admitting guilt. Are you sympathetic?
Recently, Robul Hoque, a 39-year-old man from Middlesborough, was given a nine-month suspended sentence for possessing Japanese manga images. Several of these depicted young girls partaking in sexual acts, and I must reiterate — these images are cartoons — nobody was taken advantage of, nobody was abused or raped. Mr. Hoque had no hand in funding or otherwise supporting any sort of sinister sex trade. Surely that is the rationale behind the harsh sentences handed down to those in possession of illegal pornography, that they are contributing to an evil industry? But this man was, in the privacy of his own home, getting off to drawings. Manga and anime cannot be child pornography because you can’t assign an age to a drawing.
One could say that his actions suggest that he may be a danger to society, but currently he hasn’t been. What happened to the presumption of innocence? Has something as trivial as a personal abhorrence towards what is essentially — in the crudest way — a sexual preference, really been so strong as to disregard a human right? He has been found guilty of a thought crime.
Our hatred of paedophilia is universal — and that includes those who are burdened with it.
Odd? Yes. Unnerving? Absolutely. Criminal?