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By Anna Cherkasova, ‘06


Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Well, it is no exaggeration to say that things like that have happened.
A good example of it would be the case of a U.S. couple who, in 2002, were reported to the Dallas, Texas, police by a photo store clerk, who developed “suspicious” pictures containing images of the mother breast-feeding her child. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office presented the photos to a grand jury in January 2003 and won indictments against the couple for depicting a “sexual performance of a child,” a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In late March, a week after the Dallas Observer asked District Attorney Bill Hill about the case, he ordered the criminal charges against both parents dropped. Before that, however, the couple had to spend $22,500 to post bonds to get out of the jail – money borrowed from their family and church.

Child pornography in the United States is defined as production, possession, or distribution of images of minors (anyone under the age of 18) engaged in sexual conduct. Some states in the United States allow sexual conduct and marriage between adults and minors, but visual depictions of that conduct are prohibited in the United States by federal law. Unlike pornographic images of adults, the First Amendment does not protect the possession or distribution of child pornography.

In addition to laws punishing photography of child pornography, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Ut) introduced the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, in which he suggested that computer-generated images of children engaging in explicit sexual conduct should also be prohibited. The law was passed but overruled in 2004, when the Supreme Court ruled that a law prohibiting the portrayal of children through images was probably an unconstitutional muzzle on free speech and would result in the First Amendment being “turned upside down.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion: “The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea — that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity — that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages.” Shakespeare’s Juliet, Kennedy noted, was 13 years old when she became involved with Romeo in a relationship that William Shakespeare portrayed “as something splendid and innocent, but not juvenile.” Hatch’s law would have criminalized publication and production of the play.

There is a strong negative stigma associated with child pornography; most people don’t want to be perceived as defending it. Anything that is related to our kids is sacred, and we try to do everything to protect them. Some people feel that nothing is too much when it comes to children, and it is better to be overprotective then to watch our kids being hurt in any way.

However, there is a big difference between parents taking pictures of their own children and an adult who intentionally takes pictures of naked kids in weird positions and distributes them for profit or pleasure. It is hard to make right decisions, but let’s not get carried away. There is a distinct difference between the two cases; the difference that, one would think, doesn’t even have to be explained–it’s that obvious. But we live in a strange world, a world where parents have to first evaluate the situation and only after that, if it is appropriate, take pictures of their own kids.




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