Amendment makes possession of child pornography a criminal offence

Members of the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday voted unanimously in favour of strengthening the country's law on child pornography: 133 of those present voted "for"; no one "against". Until now the Czech Republic was one of the only countries in Europe where downloading or possessing child pornography was not a criminal offence. Not surprisingly, the passing of the amendment, while overdue, is being seen as a very positive step, if overdue.

A little earlier I spoke to Marie Vodickova, the director of The Children at Risk Fund.

"Of course I welcome the change: I think we were something of a rarity in Europe, one of the few places that didn't punish owners of child pornography. I hope - and believe - that the threat of punishment will lower the demand for child porn and that that will hurt production. The threat of punishment can keep paedophiles from fulfilling their desires and protect more children from abuse."

Until now in the Czech Republic only the production of child porn - not possession - was a chargeable offence. Here's how things will stand if the new amendment is approved in the Senate and signed by the president: anyone caught disseminating child pornography will face up to three years in prison; anyone involved in organising or producing child porn, six. Direct abuse of a child in pornographic material will carry a possible sentence of up to eight years in prison; and paedophiles caught in possession of child porn up could spend up to two years behind bars. Sex therapist Petr Weiss agrees toughening the legislation was the right step; he too expresses confidence it should directly impact abusers who might otherwise not curb their deviant desires.

"It's a trend in all developed countries to restrict access to child pornography and I think that anything that makes it more difficult to access child pornography is good. When the demand will be lower, maybe there will also be less abuse. Paedophiles are not responsible for their sexual orientation, for the disturbance, but they are fully completely responsibility for their behaviour. These people know what they are doing and they know when they violate the law."

If the law is ultimately approved - and it appears there are no reasons it shouldn't be - anyone caught with child pornography in the Czech Republic will soon face tough times.