The German federal cabinet has moved to bolster regulations on possession and dissemination of explicit material depicting minors. The measures come after the Edathy Affair triggered a debate about child pornography.
The cabinet in Berlin approved a measure on Wednesday which strengthens the penalty against anyone convicted of possessing child pornography. The law, drafted by Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), would extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting child pornography cases as well as add a year to the minimum term of imprisonment.
Substantial increase in cases
"The number of cases is rising dramatically," Minister of Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig of the SPD told the Berlin newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel.
As part of the tighter policies, Schwesig has asked for more staff to deal with the cases at hand and to work on prevention measures, such as therapy for pedophiles, together with law enforcement agencies and youth welfare offices.
"It is unacceptable that cases of child pornography are set aside just because there aren't enough personnel," Schwesig said.
Under the current law, dissemination of child pornography carries a sentence of one year's incarceration or a fine, while possession carries a sentence of two years or a fine.
The new bill would increase the minimum punishment for the former to two years and the latter to three years. It would also relax the present statute of limitations, which stipulates that legal proceedings in such cases begin before the victim's 51st birthday. This would take into account how difficult it can be for a victim to speak out about their abuse, and therefore many years may elapse before a perpetrator can be brought to justice.
Broadening the meaning of 'pornography'
Speaking on German public broadcaster ZDF, Maas called attention to the need to expand the definition of child pornography, saying that nude pictures taken without a child or parent's consent, though in such a way as to not be previously classified as pornography, have been circulating in pedophile circles in the past year. He also echoed Schwesig's call for wider emphasis on prevention.
The justice minister stated that child pornography is the same as sexual abuse.
"Children are not in a position to defend themselves against such violence and become traumatized," Maas said, adding that no one should be allowed to make money from exploiting the bodies of children or adolescents.
A spokesperson for "Square Table" ("Eckiger Tisch"), a victims' support group located in Bonn, welcomed the proposed measures, saying "it's about time."
The subject of sexual abuse of minors came to the forefront within the German government in February this year, when the news broke that Sebastian Edathy, a SPD member of parliament, was being investigated on charges of possessing child pornography. Edathywas formally charged in July, though he denies the allegations.
es/nm (AFP, dpa, epd)