As a human rights consultant for children I support the actions of the New South Wales and Victorian police in their investigation of what is alleged to be child pornography. I also welcome the debate on this topic as to whether certain objects that have been on public display are, or are not, child pornography. An analysis of the different views, who supports them, and for what reason, will enable us to assess if we have a culture that is supportive of child abuse.
Yes, that is also a question. This is not just a debate on art, censorship or rights, so let us examine what certain words can mean in a debate such as this.
What is commerce? This can be said to include the buying and selling of things and objects including objects d’art for gain.
What is the market? A place where objects and ideas are valued, bought, sold or bartered for gain when there is a demand created.
What is art? Depictions of anything, in any form, legal or illegal, beautiful or ugly depending on individual perceptions.
What is commercial art? Art that exists in the private domain or has come into the public domain that has been deemed to have a commercial value by those in that industry including, artists, dealers, gallery managers, critics academics the media and consumers, ie buyers and those who cannot afford to buy, but can afford to pay to view art.
What is child abuse and child pornography? Legal definitions exist for both and there are also private opinions of what is, or is not, child pornography.
Children: Are those under the age of 18 years.
There are many meanings to the above words, and what you accept depends on your values, but the law protects children because in a civil society we accept that children are vulnerable and should not be exploited or taken advantage of.
Generally under the age of 18, children cannot enter into any contracts, drink, smoke, gamble, get married and so on. We recognise their growing maturity and one example of this is the law in Victoria that allows 16-year-olds to learn to drive if they are taught by an adult who is in the car with them at all times. Adults are still responsible for protecting a 16-year-old although at this age, responsibility is a shared one. As a society we accept laws that seek to minimise the dangers minors could be exposed to.
At the turn of the 20th century there were 12-year-old girls in brothels in Victoria as that was then the age of consent. Many mothers and right thinking people opposed the early age of consent based on ethical values and they sought a change in the law. This law reform occurred long before we had the medical and scientific evidence we now have about childhood development. Today it is not legal to have under 18-year-olds in any exploitative situation nor is it permissible to profit from any commercial exploitation of their vulnerability.
Many try, but I like to believe that we have a more enlightened view of sexual maturity and the intrinsic and inalienable human rights of children to live in a society that puts their protection above any commercial or aesthetic opinion, value or price tag.
However, are archaic exploitative views a part of our history, or are they still alive and well and cultivated now in academic opinions on what is art, canvassed in reputable media as rights of adults and minors, and promoted by commerce under the old chestnut of censorship?
Is this a society that is prepared to risk a child’s well being (if not now then later) in the guise of this “debate” for commercial profit? Who will be responsible if and when children develop sufficient maturity to realise that past actions taken purportedly in their interests, with their or a parent’s consent, has adversely impacted on them?
If this debate excludes children’s rights to be safe, we will all be diminished.