'Virtual' Child Porn Debate In Netherlands

A call to legalise 'virtual' child pornography to "give paedophiles a way of regulating their sexual urges" has sparked fierce debate in the Netherlands.

Sexologists Rik van Lunsen and Erik van Beek floated the idea of creating child pornography using drawings or computer-generated images.

Their controversial suggestion has been debated intensively in Dutch media, blogs and discussion forums, news agency AFP reported, with one former politician describing it as "really not a good idea".

Mr van Beek, of Amsterdam University Hospital, said: "If you make virtual child pornography under strict government control with some kind of label explaining that no child was abused, you can give paedophiles a way of regulating their sexual urges.

"I think that repressing your fantasies can lead to frustration and, ultimately, for some types of paedophile, to a greater likelihood of doing something wrong."

"We don't make enough of a distinction in public debate between 'healthy' paedophiles, people who are not paedosexually active, and delinquent paedosexuals," Mr van Lunsen, head of the hospital's sexology department, added.

"We're not responsible for our thoughts or our fantasies; we're only responsible for one thing: our actions."

Virtual child pornography, including drawings, paintings or computer-generated images, was made illegal in the Netherlands 10 years ago, as technology made increasingly realistic images possible.

Creating, owning and sharing such images is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Jules Mulder, a psychotherapist who specialises in treating paedophiles, warned that legalising virtual material would "certainly increase the likelihood of going through with it (sexual abuse)".

During a television debate on the subject, Gerdi Verbeet, a former parliamentary speaker, said: "It's really not a good idea. It would be an enormous responsibility for the government."

The issue has already been raised with the Dutch government, with Myrthe Hilkens, an MP from the PvdA party, expecting a written reply from questions put to the justice minister Ivo Opstelten.

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