Germany downgrades possession of child sexual abuse images to misdemeanor

germany, abortion

The German Parliament has voted to downgrade the crime of possession of child sexual abuse materials from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The bill’s passage, originally announced earlier this year, was published in a press release. Previously, the minimum sentence for possession of child sexual abuse materials was one year in prison; now, the criminal code will be amended to make the minimum sentence just three months.

Possession of child sexual abuse materials was only just made a crime in Germany in 2021, when Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) introduced a minimum sentence of one year and made it a felony crime. Just three years later, it’s already been downgraded, in direct opposition to a European Union (EU) directive classifying any media of child sexual abuse as a serious offense under criminal law.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) released a statement of opposition slamming the bill. “Combating child sexual abuse is one of the most important socio-political challenges of our time and a central task of the state. Unfortunately, the current federal government is not fulfilling this task sufficiently,” Günter Krings, the legal policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said. “The distribution, possession and acquisition of child pornography must in principle remain classified as crimes. Even if the increase in the penalty range under Section 184b of the Criminal Code in 2020 has led to practical problems in certain cases, a blanket reduction in the penalty range is the wrong solution. A change should be limited to the problem cases and solve them effectively. Scientific findings show that when the penalty range shifts downwards, the penalties imposed in practice also tend to be lower.”

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Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, however, tried to justify the change in February by giving what-if examples of someone accidentally seeing the material, such as “the context of a WhatsApp parents’ group — risk a minimum sentence of one year” or “the case of teachers who have discovered child pornographic material on students’ cellphones and have forwarded it to alert the affected parents.”

Legislators could have amended the criminal code to better address those specific concerns; instead, they downgraded the offense altogether, allowing actual abusers to receive a more lenient misdemeanor charge. Meanwhile, a pedophilia activist group is seizing the opportunity to call for politicians to apologize to the “thousands upon thousands of those affected who fell victim” to the 2021 child sexual abuse law. Dieter Gieseking, who has repeatedly been caught possessing child sexual abuse materials, has also called for the age of sexual consent to be lowered in Germany to just 12 years old.

“The taboo of pedophilia must finally be broken at all levels of society. If a pedophile can come out without fear of exclusion or even demonization, then this is the best prevention against child abuse,” Gieseking said in a 2014 interview. “For babies and toddlers and elementary school students, the sexual component in such a ‘relationship’ is problematic. This would have to be discussed separately. From a sexual policy perspective, an age of consent of 12 is appropriate and long overdue in today’s enlightened society. There are boys and girls who take the initiative in a friendly and sexual relationship with a pedosexual. Therefore, there is a need for sexual criminal law reform that does justice to everyone involved.”

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