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Silent marchers demand crackdown on paedophilia

Thousands of demonstrators called for tougher legislation against child pornography Keystone

Thousands of silent demonstrators took to Switzerland's streets on Saturday to demand more action to protect children from sexual abuse.

This content was published on September 20, 2002 - 17:14

They were seeking the re-establishment of a government office to crack down on child pornography on the Internet.

The demonstrations were organised in 26 Swiss cities by Marche Blanche, a parent-run organisation set up in 2001 to lobby for tougher legislation and more funding in the fight against child pornography in Switzerland.

"The propagation of child pornography on the Internet is unbelievable," Raymond Paroz, the vice president of Marche Blanche, told swissinfo. "But it's not to blame for the rise in child pornography - it's just a motor. You have to kill the demand and the supply."

Ursula Wyss, a Swiss parliamentarian and a member of Marche Blanche, argues that the anonymity of the Internet encourages child pornographers to share material.

"The Internet makes people less worried about being tracked down" Wyss told swissinfo.

Innocence destroyed

In 2001, there were 180,000 known sites of child pornography and this figure has now risen to over 200,000, Paroz says. Each site circulates up to 350,000 photographs.

The organisation's president, Christine Bussat, hoped the march would help people look beyond these statistics.

"You must never forget that behind every picture, a child's innocence has been corrupted and a life has been destroyed," she says.

Cybercrime

The Lausanne-based body hopes the government will heed its calls to re-instate a police unit responsible for Internet paedophile crime. The unit was closed in 1999 on the grounds of insufficient funding.

There have been murmurings from ministers that a new unit - run jointly by the government and cantonal authorities - would open in 2003, but this has not been confirmed, says Paroz.

Combating child pornography on the Internet is currently handled by a government office which tackles all forms of cybercrime, including terrorism and money laundering.

"There are only seven people working in this unit and it's definitely too small to deal with paedophilia effectively," Bussat says. "We don't even know whether [paedophilia] is one of their priorities."

Protecting children

Marche Blanche's other demands include more government subsidies to fight paedophilia, tougher sentences for the perpetrators of child pornography and more rigorous checks on school teaching staff and to increase the limit of persecution.

It also says that it's imperative to carry out more studies on paedophilia, to gain a clearer idea of how widespread the problem is.

There are no nationwide statistics available, but a study carried out in canton Geneva showed that 11 per cent of all schoolboys and 34 per cent of all schoolgirls had suffered sexual abuse. The Federal Department of Police said the study was likely to be representative of all of Switzerland.

swissinfo, Vanessa Mock

Key facts

Marche Blanche organised demonstrations in 26 Swiss cities.
It is an organisation lobbying for tougher legislation against child pornography.
There are currently more than 200,000 known sites of child pornography.

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