The New Times (Kigali)

12 November 2012

Rwanda: Why Not Send Child Sex Abusers to the ICC?

opinion

I have been asking myself lately which is the greater evil - the paedophile or the person who recruits children as fighters. For those of us not very familiar with compound words of ancient Greek and Roman origin, paedophilia simply means the sexual abuse of children, some of them infants, by adults.

You will probably say - with justifiable indignation - that neither is the lesser or greater evil. Both are wicked acts and should be condemned as such. You may well be right. But wait a moment. Is this really so?

Consider this. Paedophilia is not a crime of circumstance, brought about by abnormal, unforeseen conditions or unusual times. Its perpetrators are not dangerous looking ruthless war-lords, outlaws or social outcasts. Nor are they the riff-raff of society.

Child sex abuse is committed in normal times, in the most affluent societies. It does not take place in back alleys or the horrible conditions of a Dickensian workhouse at the hands of a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered taskmaster. It happens in posh places, in luxurious surroundings.

The victims are drawn from places where children should ordinarily expect nurture and protection - schools, the church, foster care homes and other charitable institutions. They are usually trusting innocent children from ordinary caring families, or they are deprived, vulnerable children who need love, compassion, protection and support to lead normal, balanced lives.

And the people who prey on these children are some of the most urbane and prominent people: celebrities of all sorts, politicians, church leaders, aristocrats, philanthropists- - members of the establishment as one British former victim described last week. They are men of power and influence and ordinarily inspire confidence and trust from the children, in particular and society in general.

In the end, what happens to these ordinary children is betrayal of the most inexcusable nature. It is the forced loss of self-respect, innocence and faith in the potential goodness of humanity. Looking at the former victims and hearing them speak, you notice something of immense value has been stolen from them and it can never be regained.

The Western media is awash with stories of child sex abuse, the most celebrated being that of star BBC presenter and renowned philanthropist, Jimmy Saville. Indeed, the BBC is in the very thick of it and some heads have begun to roll. Its credibility and reputation is on the line, much to the delight of rival news organisations which are gleefully reporting its being in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

From all the news reports, it is evident that child sex abuse is widespread practice that covers a very large number of children and that has been going on for a very long time. It is also clear that paedophiles do not strike on the spur of the moment. Their actions are premeditated; their victims and venues for the commission of their crimes carefully selected. They involve a large number of accomplices in high places, and now as it turns out, among the self-appointed watchdogs of society - the media - and not just any media, but the once irreproachable and incomparable BBC.

For all these reasons, child sex abuse is not an ordinary crime. In the view of right-thinking people, it qualifies as a crime against humanity.

Yet we have not heard any strong condemnation from the media or other guardians of universal morality. We have not seen a crusade mounted to hunt, expose and punish other paedophiles. It actually says a lot that Jimmy Saville has been identified after his death.

The usually shrill and quick to condemn human rights brigade is curiously absent. We do not hear their moral outrage expressed in loud howls for child sex abuse offenders to be hauled to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face crimes against humanity charges. Come to think of it, it should not come as a surprise if some of the most prominent rights activists were to be part of the ring of paedophiles.

Now, when it comes to child soldiers, the rights brigade, the media and all the so-called custodians of our collective conscience are all over the place baying for the blood of the alleged recruiters of children as fighters. Judging from the outrage, it appears as if having children fight is the most horrendous crime - infinitely worse than child sex abuse.

Many will contest that conclusion and even question the values that inform it.

Are children actually deliberately recruited as fighters - except perhaps in the case of Joseph Kony? In most cases they are driven into fighting by circumstances by circumstances, not choice. They are not recruited but go to the commanders of the various fighting outfits for protection because very often that is the only available alternative.

The fighters command respect and trust, and have immense power and influence. However, unlike the paedophiles, they use this to protect children, not to prey on them. On a scale of evil, many people would find them well below paedophiles.

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