Umm Muhammed Umar
Child pornography is becoming disturbingly common in South Africa. This became evident in the trial of Kevin Mulligan, who was convicted in the Gauteng High Court, on 186 counts of possession of child pornography. The court heard that in the last 10 years about 12 South Africans were arrested on charges relating to child pornography. The court also heard that approximately 150 000 images of explicit content involving children had been seized. Radio Islam discussed the alarming issue with children’s rights activist, Joan van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk agreed that child pornography was becoming an increasingly problematic issue. She explained, “as the internet becomes more and more complicated, we have the dark web, we have facilities or abilities to hide this content, it becomes increasingly difficult to police.”
Van Niekerk said that it was important to note that in order to create child pornography, a child has to be abused. She said that while a lot of people believed that it was just at an image, or a series of images, that was being viewed, behind the images was a real actual child. She emphasized, “and I think it’s really important when we look at cases like this, that we understand the importance of that and that we asked for penalties that are congruent with the actual content, and the fact that behind this content, there is a child.” Van Niekerk explained that people who collect child pornography collected large amounts of it, as they were not just satisfied with just one image: “they want many images in order to satisfy their desire for this content.” She also reiterated that it was of huge concern that the making and selling of child pornography generated a huge amount of money.
Parents also have a role to play, in this digital age, to protect their children. Many young children have cell phones, they take pictures of themselves, and can be contacted, and groomed, by adults. Van Niekerk said that they came across children daily, who were being groomed by someone who was pretending to be someone else. She cited the example of a child who was in therapy, where the mother was keeping a check to see if the child was using the phone responsibly, and found that she was being groomed by a much older person. Van Niekerk said, “The child was only 12, and as far as she was concerned, she was talking to a young person of similar age to herself, maybe a little bit older.” She added, “So the children are often very unaware, and they cannot be aware of who they’re actually talking to……they trust the person, they believe that this is a friend – and children don’t always understand the concept of friend either, when it comes to the internet.”
Van Niekerk stressed that parents monitor their children’s use of their cell phone. She said, “There are programs that you can put on a child’s cell phone that allow the parent to monitor. There should also be very strict rules that are discussed between the child and the parent, the reason for those rules, and what will happen if those rules are transgressed.” She cautioned, “we forget that a cell phone can be used as a weapon in order to seduce children and harm our children.”