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Pedophilia a growing problem throughout Europe

August 26, 1996 Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Bill Delaney


BERLIN (CNN) -- A profoundly disturbing child-sex case unfolding in Belgium has drawn the world's attention to the problem of child molestation.

In turn, that attention has increased interest in an upcoming international child exploitation conference to begin Tuesday in Stockholm, Sweden. Officials and journalists from 130 countries will attend the conference.


While the problem of pedophilia has so far been studied mostly in Asia, it is a growing problem in a number of European countries as well, including Germany.

CNN met with one German, an apparently mild-mannered, intelligent man in his mid-30s. He is a pedophile who throughout his adult life has had sexual relationships with boys as young as 11.


"Years ago, I had the illusion I could do something to stop it," he said. "Now I know it can't be stopped."

-- A confessed pedophile

"Years ago, I had the illusion I could do something to stop it," he said. "Now I know it can't be stopped."

In Germany, sex with anyone under 14 is illegal. Nonetheless, experts say, pedophilia is on the increase, in part because as traditional male-female roles have broken down, more men seek relationships in which they are unquestionably in charge.

"Sexuality always has something to do with power," said sex counselor Christian Spoden. "The major difference between grown-ups and children is that children cannot give informed consent."

In Germany, as in most other places, pedophilia is handled mainly as a crime rather than an illness. Cutting down sex tourism, especially in Asian countries like Thailand, has become a new focus for law enforcement. Last year, more Germans than ever before were arrested for having sex with children outside of Germany.

The problem with the strategy of just arresting pedophiles, experts say, is that putting police pressure on sex offenders, whether in or out of Germany, doesn't change much.

In a society with so few taboos left, many pedophiles end up feeling that they are being victimized by society for having questionable sexual inclinations.

The German man CNN met says he considers pedophilia a curse that led to his suicide attempt in jail. At the same time, he firmly believes boys as young as eight years old want sex, and he says he has never forced a child to do anything.

His attitude is typical among pedophiles, experts say, and is evidence that Germany needs more programs to treat pedophilia, not punish it.

Some believe that Germany and other countries should also stop sending mixed signals to pedophiles -- for example, in Germany, magazines with photos of nude children are readily available on news stands.


Although publishers insist that the photos are simply a portrayal of innocent naturism, their detractors say that such publications promote the sexual abuse of children.

Do the children pictured know that they get published in such a magazine? we asked Spoden. "I very strongly believe they don't know that they are in this context, of this magazine, which is of course used pornographically," he said. "For pedophiles. We know that."

In Germany, it is difficult to define acceptable social values in a society that many say long ago lost its innocence.


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