Saint Nicholas of Bari by Ermes Dovico

UNICEF doesn’t recognise that pornography is evil

A UNICEF report - first published, then withdrawn due to protests and resubmitted with minor changes - supports the idea that pornography is not always harmful to children and adolescents. And that they should not be denied ‘vital sex education’, including abortion and LGBT issues. A scandalous approach that fails to recognise the objective evil of pornography.

Life and Bioethics 28_05_2021 Italiano Español

According to UNICEF, pornography is not necessarily harmful to children and adolescents. This is the gist of a report that has rightly caused a scandal in the pro-family world. The strange thing is that UNICEF - following news of the report by Friday Fax, a publication linked to an American research institute (C-Fam) that closely follows the activities of the UN etc. - removed the original version of the document from its website. A few days later, it re-presented it with a few modifications to make its contents more politically expedient, but without - N.B. - correcting the erroneous basic structure. In practice, the UN agency tells us that pornography is not an evil in itself, thus supporting the umpteenth falsehood of relativism, which does not know how to distinguish between good and evil, to the point of reversing them.

The report, entitled “Digital Age Assurance Tools and Children’s Rights Online across the Globe”, deals with online age assurance tools and children’s rights in five areas (gambling, pornography, online games, social media, child pornography). With regard to pornography, it reviews the legislative proposals of some countries and cites some research that presents, over and above the data collected, different judgements on the issue, either totally negative or substantially lax.

To the question “What is the evidence of risk and harm?” UNICEF replied that there were “several types of risk and harm that have been linked to children’s exposure to pornography”, but added immediately afterwards that “there is no consensus on the degree to which pornography is harmful to children”. It is precisely this last part, concerning the missing ‘consensus’ on the degree of harm, that has been removed from the new version of the document. And, similarly, from the answer to the next question (“Does the evidence justify age limits?”), the UN agency has removed the part which stated that “the evidence is mixed, and there is currently no universal agreement on the nature and extent of harm caused to children from viewing content classified as pornographic”.

Other than this there are a few words changed from the first version, but nothing that changes the outrageous perspective of UNICEF, which is careful not to make its own clear judgement against pornography.

For example, looking at what is in both the first and second reports, the UN agency believes that there is content that can be classified as pornography “in certain contexts” and this, in the presence of age restrictions, “could deny children access to vital sex education materials” (p. 35). A brief reminder: the idea of ‘sex education’ shared by various UN agencies - from UNESCO to the WHO with its infamous guidelines for Europe - is indeed pornographic and anything but ‘vital’. It is no coincidence that later on the UNICEF report urges not to exclude children from online information on “sexual and reproductive health” (a term that includes abortion), “including resources for LGBT education” (p. 39).

UNICEF briefly recalls the existence of research that underlines “the negative outcomes” of pornography use, such as “poor mental health, sexism and objectification, sexual aggression”. On a different front, it cites the “EU Kids Online 2020” study by the London School of Economics, based on surveys in 19 European countries, which found that “most children who had seen sexual images online were neither shocked nor happy (ranging from 27% in Switzerland to 72% in Lithuania); between 4% and 10% were quite or very shocked; and between 3% of children (in Estonia) and 39% (in Spain) reported feeling happy after seeing such images”.

No judgement is made on the fact that perceiving oneself as indifferent or even “happy” after viewing pornographic images is still an ephemeral and deceptive perception - like so many in the world (think of drugs and various other disordered addictions) - which clashes with the objective fact that pornography is contrary to the good of the person, creates addiction and evident psycho-physical damage in the medium to long term.

Referring to the limits for commercial pornography set at 18 years in several countries, UNICEF suggests a more ‘nuanced’ system of age classification, also because of “differences in the individual level of maturity of children” (p. 38). This other passage in the introduction to the five areas is also worrying: “Children have the right to be protected online from sexual exploitation, abuse and violence, but this must be balanced with their rights to privacy, freedom of expression, participation, play and access to information” (p. 33). We have already seen above some of the information that UNICEF prioritises.

The UN agency, in response to Friday Fax asking for comment, stated through its spokeswoman Najwa Mekki that “UNICEF’s position is unequivocal: no child should be exposed to harmful content online”. But UNICEF, as we can see, did not want to express its opinion on pornography.

After all, what we have seen is sufficient to understand UNICEF’s position, also in relation to the parts omitted from the modified report. Because the point is not that there is a lack of “consensus” or “agreement” on how harmful pornography is (inevitably there will be different judgments between those who, for example, use it and those who denounce its dangers, confirming that it is not “consensus” that determines the truth), but rather that objectively it is contrary to natural moral law. As the Catechism reminds us, “Pornography [...] does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public). […] It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offence. Civil authorities must prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (CCC, 2354). These simple principles of common sense, which apply to all ages, should be the basis for the approach of any organisation claiming to act for the good of children.