Dutch Paedophile Emancipation Movement
Prior to the movement
Up until 1886, the idea that sex with a friend of the same age, or with an older person, in itself could harm a child was as absent from European culture as it is still absent today, according to ethnologists, in many other cultures. Penal law was therefore silent on this matter. Children were protected against rape, violence and abuse of authority, but never against sex as such. A little more than a century ago, consensual sex with children, boys or girls, whether heterosexual or homosexual, constituted no offense in the Netherlands.  However, in 1911, the Penal Code of the Netherlands was enacted which punished heterosexual acts below the age of 16 and homosexual acts below the age of 21.
Fast forward to 1940. A 20-year-old Frits Bernard telephoned the chairman of the Wetenschappelijk Humanitaire Comité in the Netherlands, and was put into contact with Dr. Benno Premsela, one of the first sexologists in the Netherlands. They were interested in addressing the issue of paedophilia. However, they weren’t able to put their ideas into action because of the German invasion and dissolution of the Comité. A decade later, World War II ended, and Bernard was once again given an opportunity to implement his ideas.
Bernard and the COC
In the 1950’s, paedophilia was not yet even considered an issue, and the term 'sexual minority' was not yet being used. Paedophiles were isolated, and had no way of “coming out” or connecting with others. There was very little literature on the subject, except for psychiatric papers dominated by an analysis of the pathological aspects of paedophilia. Homosexuality was being discussed but was also considered very difficult issue.
This is why Bernard reached out to Niek Engelschman in 1957. Engelschman was at that time chairman of the Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum (COC, Culture and Leisure Center), an organization in the Netherlands which concerned itself with the interests of homosexuals. The COC was ambivalent about the paedophile issue in the fifties. People felt threatened by it. Yet it was in fact the COC which between 1959 and 1964 published a series of articles about paedophilia in its monthly magazine Vriendschap (Friendship). In 1962 an attempt was made by way of Vriendschap to raise interest within the COC for a positive and practical approach to the issue of paedophilia.
Bernard proposed that a center to deal with the problems surrounding the paedophile issue be formed within the COC. In the beginning this idea was well received, but later, as things actually began to take shape and a meeting of paedophiles within the COC was announced in The Hague, the association's directors became fearful and it was banned. Bernard felt that his plans had failed because the time was not ripe. He was to have more success in the 1970s.
In the 1950s, Frits Bernard created “Enclave Kring”, the first organization for paedophiles. It was made inclusive for “heterophile as well as homophile paedophiles” , and consisted of male and female paedophiles. They maintained privacy by not keeping a list of their members. Its objectives were "to break down prejudice about the issues of erotic contacts and relationships between minors and adults [...] to provide information and advice as well as to initiate a direct assistance program [and makes steps] toward a revision of the penal code."
“to develop new moral views concerning paedophilia based upon scientific investigation of facts rather than upon traditional moral judgements which find paedophilia unacceptable. To answer the question of whether the movement for the emancipation of paedophiles is justified and whether those with paedophile feelings should assert their rights, we must investigate what children think of paedophile contacts and what the psychological consequences of consensual paedophile contacts are for the children who are involved in them. Here we must rely on the results attained by the most objective scholarly/ scientific research. Research done in the early 1970s confirmed that consensual sexual contact between children and adults is not per se negative, and in some cases can have a positive effect on the child. The aspirations of Enclave were therefore justifiable.”
The first foundations of the 'Enclave Kring', which developed slowly into the International Enclave Movement, were laid at Mispelstraat 3, The Hague. It was there that the first meetings and discussions took place, albeit on a small scale. The first circulars were drafted and distributed. In 1960 Enclave moved to Rotterdam. During this year, Bernard also traveled to many different countries, lecturing and making connections with paedophiles and gay rights activists.
People from various countries joined; Enclave was in touch with a number of institutions and organizations. From the many letters which were received, the great psychological distress paedophiles everywhere were experiencing was revealed. Correspondence was conducted in no less than six languages.
Enclave remained primarily an underground movement as the times dictated. The hostility toward paedophiles was too great, and the time for a real 'coming out' was years away. The only aspect of Enclave which was above ground was its publishing, which continued to put out books and brochures in various languages. From 1960 to 1964 no less than five books, literary and scholarly, were published, as well as a whole series of brochures, not including articles in other publications in the Netherlands and abroad. Enclave gathered support from various magazines, authors and scholars.
In 1964, Enclave planned to release an international journal, but at the last moment misgivings arose and it was not published. It was to take years before a journal would come out elsewhere. This was another one of Enclave's ideas which was premature.
The NVSH had long objected to paedophilia. However, after the conference "De Staat als Zedenmeester" (The State as Keeper of Morals) in 1969, its attitude towards paedophilia slowly changed.
Early in January 1970, several prominent members of the NVSH came together in order to create a program that would address the issue of paedophilia. This marked the beginning of the first paedophile workgroups. Among other things, the go-ahead was given for a book to be written about the subject which would throw light on many aspects of paedophilia. A commission was formed consisting of experts in various disciplines who immediately went to work. As early as the first half of 1972 there appeared Sex met Kinderen (Sex with Children), published by the NVSH. This book was to have a great impact throughout Europe and signalled the beginning of a new development.
Paedophile workgroups soon arose in a number of cities. They took care of paedophiles in distress, as well as organized all kinds of activities: open forums, readings, etc. Information was made available to those outside the paedophile community, such as schools, the police and the press. This helped pave the way for a more open attitude about sexuality and paedophilia. Their primary goal, however, was “to provide the chance for paedophiles to meet each other and thereby help them to emerge from isolation”. These workgroups attained official status on January 20, 1973, and thus, an above-ground organization had arisen from an underground movement.
These groups distributed information to paedophiles and non-paedophiles alike, giving lectures, facilitating communications within and outside the group, etc.
In addition, in 1973, a special group was formed to provide mental health assistance to paedophiles, as the existing mental welfare programs were not adequately informed about paedophilia. They met for the first time on March 18, 1974, in Utrecht.
Paedophilia and Society
The definitive report concerning the conclusions of the commission appeared in 1976, entitled Pedofilie en Samenleving (Paedophilia and Society). Here are several important conclusions from the voluminous report:
- "The most acute and usually also the most serious difficulties occur as soon as the police and/or the Prosecutor become involved in the problem. Many problems escalate unnecessarily if people neglect to ask what exactly the problem is and/or people don't think of approaching the parent involved or the child."
- "The Workgroup is of the opinion that it is incorrect to regard sexual activities with children under 16 as punishable acts, and the Workgroup strongly recommends the repeal of all the sections of the law pertaining to this matter, or parts thereof, such as appear in Section XIV of the second book of the Penal Code. The Workgroup made this opinion known and argued it in a letter of 20 December, 1974, to the Advisory Committee on Morals Laws. We are, therefore, in agreement with similar ideas such as those which have already been made known to the Advisory Committee by a special advisory study group of the National Center for Mental Health; by the Rutgers Foundation; the Coornhert League; the Dutch Institute for Social Sexological Research; and the Free Rights Union."
- "The child, just like everyone else, has the right to express his [sexual] feelings and needs."
During this time, the National Workgroup of the NVSH organized five international meetings in Breda between 1973 and 1975.
Over 200 people from the fields of social work, the social sciences and the police took part. There was also a twelve-year-old boy as a youth representative at the committee table. The head of the Rotterdam police, Mr. B. Kalma, gave a positive speech on the topic. Various aspects of paedophilia were discussed by a number of experts, and the Chairman of the NVSH, Tom van der Loo, closed the meeting.
This was the first real "coming out", clearly directed to the outside world. These meetings in Breda also inspired the formation of workgroups abroad.
By 1979, the National Workgroup on Paedophilia changed its name to National Workgroup for the Emancipation of Children, thereby shifting the focus from just paedophilia onto children’s rights. The right of children to have sexual contact, as well as their right not to have sexual contact, was a focus in the program. During the same year, Dr. Brongersma created the Brongersma Foundation, which focused on studying youth sexuality.
In the summer of 1980 the long expected Eindrapport van de Adviescommissie Zedelijkheidswetgeving (Final Report of the Advisory Committee on the Morals Laws) appeared. The committee was led by A.L. Melai, Professor of Penology at the Rijksuniversiteit in Leiden. A number of recommendations were made in the report pertaining to the sexuality of children and paedophilia, among them that, if the initiative were taken by the child, sexual contacts with children between the ages of 12 and 16 should no longer be punishable. Although this was not implemented, it indicated that the sexuality of children under 16 years of age was taken seriously and accepted, and was definitely a positive development. (It was, however, implemented ten years later, in 1990.)
We should also make mention of the initiative taken in the 1970s by a small group in Tegelen (Limburg) under the leadership of Hardy Sigfrid Scheller in the area of heterosexual paedophilia. They published a German-language magazine called Propädophile Informationsblätter. Scheller also wrote two books, Die Manipulierte Psyche, Betrachtungen über die heterosexuelle Pädophilie (Tegelen: Sandra Verlag, 1979), and Die pädophilie Emanzipation, Motive und philosophische Grundlagen des Propädophilismus, published by himself in 1980. The organization no longer exists.
At this time, another group, "Stichting Martijn", produced a monthly magazine, O.K.: Info-magazine over Ouderen-Kinderen-relaties. It printed the latest news as well as background information and was illustrated with photos and sketches. In addition, it made available a "Press Focus" to members--a monthly newspaper of clippings about sex and emancipation.
After 1982-1983, the Dutch emancipation movement faced rapid deterioration. In Holland resistance was mounted against the dearly won sexual freedoms, and foreign powers have tried more and more to influence Dutch moral attitudes.
The NVSH membership dropped drastically to under ten thousand in the 1980s, and it consequently faced a financial crisis. This was a serious matter for a society which had been in existence for over 100 years and at its peak had almost 240,000 members.
Meanwhile, the paedophile organizations in foreign countries also had great problems: the Swiss and French-speaking Belgian groups were destroyed by police action, and many people were arrested. Everywhere, there had been an hysteria over paedophilia and child sexuality, which often degenerated into witch-hunts. The media deal with the phenomenon with complete lack of understanding. Phenomenologically distinct categories are mixed together: paedophilia and ephebophilia are not distinguished, and both are equated with child-abuse.
Reaction against progress might be expected; improvement is never steady. Religious fundamentalism and its judgmental morality is now again gaining ground. After this negative period, probably a more positive one will follow; how long that will last nobody can say.
- Edward Brongersma, An Historical Background, 1983. (IPCE)
- Frits Bernard, The Dutch Paedophile Emancipation Movement, 1987. (IPCE)
- See, among others, "De gevolgen voor het kind," in Sex met kinderen (The Hague: NVSH, 1972); abstracts of this in English may be found in Love and Attraction, edited by Mark Cook and Glenn Wilson (Oxford and New York: Pergamon Press, 1979), pp. 499-501, and Children and Sex, edited by L.L. Constantine and F.M. Martinson (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981), pp. 189-199. And later see Theo Sandfort, The Sexual Aspect of Paedophile Relations: the experience of twenty-five boys, (Amsterdam: Pan/Spartacus, 1982).
- Pedofilie en samenleving (Utrecht: NCGV and Rotterdam: Instituut voor preventieve en sociale psychiatrie, Erasmus Universiteit, 1976), p. 96, 97 and 100.