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Child pornography

Child pornography is pornography involving children. Production and sale of child pornography is illegal almost everywhere, and many countries also outlaw mere possession.

Definitions of child pornography vary widely.

In most countries, "children" are defined to be persons below the age of 14 or 16, and "pornography" is defined to be depiction of actual sexual activity. In these countries nudist magazines with depictions of nude underage persons are widely available.

The United States of America uses a particularly broad definition, which applies to all people appearing to be below the age of 18 and covers all materials aimed at "prurient interests", even if no nudity is involved. In at least one case, nude pictures of small children in bath tubs have been declared to be child pornography.

Recently, the question has arisen of whether materials which appear to, but in fact do not involve actual under-age persons (for instance because adult actors or computer animation were used) should also be treated as prohibited child pornography.

Proponents of such a prohibition argue that these materials might encourage child molesters, and that the availability of simulated child pornography would make the prosecution of true child pornography much harder. Opponents of the prohibition claim that simulated child pornography does not harm children and should therefore fall under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. They also argue that these materials may give pedophiles a sexual outlet, thereby lowering sexual frustration and the risk of criminal behaviour.

The United States Supreme Court decided in 2002 that the American prohibition of simulated child pornography is unconstitutional (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-795.ZS)).

Interpol estimates that the majority of internationally available child pornography is produced in Japan. Child pornography was outlawed there only in 1999, after much international pressure; enforcement remains somewhat sporadic.

The Netherlands decided in July 2002 that creating apparently real child pornography is a criminal offence and raised the age limit of a "child" to 18 years.

The advent of the Internet has facilitated the exchange in child pornography considerably, and several groups engaged in the exchange of child pornography have been uncovered. Typically, participants in these groups do not buy or sell materials, but trade, or post out of a desire to spread them.

Some sources claim that the prevalence of child pornography is much lower than generally thought, and that much or most of the material found online is actually bait deployed by law enforcement agents. The NAMBLA newsletter once warned its readers that most of the solicitations for child pornography are actually sting operations.

Lolita is a common codeword for child pornography, derived from Vladimir Nabokov's novel about a man's obsessive affair with a teenage girl.

See also: Age of consent, Criminal law, hentai, shota-con.

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