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‘Regulating bodies: child sexuality in the digital era’

PhD Candidate Sabine K. Witting has published an article ‘Regulating bodies: child sexuality in the digital era’ in the Critical Quarterly for Legislation and Law, Vol. 1 2019.

Sabine Witting

With increased access to the internet, children’s sexual explorative behaviour has expanded to the online space. This led to a revival of the moral panic around child sexuality, in particular due to the increasing phenomenon of consensual ‘sexting’ between minors. This moral panic is fueled by concerns around children’s sexual abuse and exploitation in the context of ‘child pornography’ offences. In an attempt to protect children, consensual ‘sexting’ between minors is in some countries categorised as production and dissemination of ‘child pornography’, leading to the prosecution of involved children as sex offenders. The right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation is hereby the dominant narrative. This article argues that the criminalisation of children for consensual sexual exploration in the online space is counterproductive to the child protection objective. Instead, countries should take a rights-based approach to consensual ‘sexting’ between minors, and balance autonomy and child protection concerns through an exclusion of consensual ‘sexting’ between minors from the scope of ‘child pornography’ provisions.

The article forms part of Sabine K. Witting PhD titled ‘'Child sexual abuse in the digital era - Rethinking legal frameworks and transnational law enforcement collaboration'.

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