On the Child Pornography Debate in Denmark

The highly publicized child pornography conviction last month of a Swedish translator, for possessing manga which allegedly depicted sexualised minors or minors engaging in sexual acts, is but the latest manifestation of a debate concerning what constitutes child pornography that has been going for a number of years. The chairman of the Swedish Comics Society, Fredrik Strömberg, has written succinctly about the case here and here.

The debate has also been raging in Denmark for the better part of a year, with Karen Hækkerup — a member of parliament for the main opposition party, the Social Democrats — leading the charge against the kind of animated child pornography currently legally accessible on the internet (from a Danish website amongst other sources). Hækkerup and the Social Demoncrats want to change the law opening the people manufacturing this kind of material for prosecution, and she has recently found support from the powerful, right-wing Danish Peoples’ Party. The issue exploded in the media this week because of the opening, Friday, of an exhibition about drawn and animated child pornography at the Odense museum Brandts klædefabrik.

Hækkerup’s proposals have been met with criticism from a number of quarters, including not just free speech groups, but also the child protection organization Red Barnet. The research cited by Hækkerup, purportedly showing that looking at pornography may ultimately lead to actual transgressions, has been questioned and the proposal described as a slippery slope, potentially leading to cases like the ones in Sweden, or worse. Mie Harder, a member of the government’s junior coalition partner, the Conservative Party, has been very vocal in her opposition to the proposal and has started a Facebook page to fight it.

The government is currently awaiting a promised statement by the Sexological Clinic at the National Hospital in Copehagen on the possible links between pornography and criminal sexual transgression. The minister of Justice, Lars Barfoed, as well as the judicial spokesman of the Danish Peoples’ Party, whose votes will be important to the passing of any new legislation, have both noted that it will be important for their further consideration of the case.

The Danish Comics Council, on the board of which I sit has also been involved in the debate. Chairman, and occasional Metabunker contributor, Thomas Thorhauge — who is highly critical of the censorious tendency evinced by the proposal — has appeared in a radio debate with Social Democrat Maja Panduro and the Council is presently preparing an official statement, which will appear in English in this space.

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