January 28, 2017

This article on pedophilia is written by Dhruv Shekhar, from Jindal Global Law School, having studied History before at St. Stephens College. Intrinsically passionate about the films, books and football, he seeks to examine and study his interests within the ambit of the legalities concerned with the said subject matter.

The term Pedophilia denotes a condition where an adult male/female desires or finds a pre-pubescent or early pubescent child sexually appealing[1]. Upon reading this description, it appears to be done in such a clinical manner that instead of inviting derision it simply takes on the form of a mental or psychological affliction to be treated accordingly. However, the narrative surrounding pedophilia rarely if ever takes on this role. What we find is the painful and automatic association that pedophilia has with the heinous act of child sexual abuse.

It is this persecutory attitude and stigmatization that is attached to this condition which is what I seek to reflect upon. Simultaneously it is an attempt to ascertain some of the misnomers attached to this mental affliction. Now the biological basis for the arousal of pedophilic elements amongst individuals has been attributed to “cross wiring” in the brain’s anatomy which is responsible for controlling an individual’s desire. While this branch of research is still in its nascent stages, it hasn’t stopped people to ask questions whether the basis of pedophilia is genetic i.e. people are born with it or is it something more prosaic by being contingent on their own choice ( thus by extension being something akin to homosexuality).

The answer for the above, according to the experts has often been the former than the latter aspect. Concurrently, instead of using the term of sexual orientation to describe the condition, they have opted to use the term age orientation. Which begs the question: when a heterosexual man walks on the street and finds a woman to be attractive, is that wrong. The obvious answer would be no, for it would be wrong on both legal and moral grounds, only if he coerced her to engage in any sexual act with him. A similar understanding to DSM prescribed affliction of Pedophilia would do well to sensitize the approach towards individuals suffering from such an affliction. For it is one thing to possess an organic desire to do something, however, it is quite another to act on it.

An understanding of a problem in such a schematic manner would, in the long run, prevent acts of child sexual abuse from actually transpiring. Many countries such as certain states in the United States have legislation which is incriminatory towards them. Even the realm of a psychologists/psychiatrist office is no longer safe haven[2], for these medical officials are instructed to report individuals showing pedophilic desires. Such an act results in two outcomes, the person who suffers from the problem endures more suffering by losing out on his job, social status, personal esteem et.al. Additionally, it sets the precedent of people not attempting to seek requisite( psychological/physiological) to combat this problem. Thus an unnecessary yet vicious circle about the dual issues of pedophilia and child sexual abuse is established. Particularly establishing an indelible relationship between pedophilia and child sexual abuse.

The media representation through films/documentaries such as  Police (2011) or Capturing the Friedman’s (2003) have made far and few efforts to understand or document the previously mentioned dimension of pedophilia. The representation of this affliction has often centered around themes such as documenting the post-facto life of the child sexual abuse victims or the officers of the law who deal with such matters as witnessed in Police.

Upon deeper examination of such representation, it appears as being understandably so. As defending the corner of those whose likely actions may place other’s in harm’s way, might justifiably generate rancor and derision. A prospect which would serve as a bane both in a creative and commercial sense. Thus the intent is not to condone the acts of one Jimmy Saville [3], or the Catholic church sexual abuse cases in the Boston area[4] and the more recently apprehended Sunil Rastogi[5] amongst many. Instead, it is to encourage the imposition of accountability on a pedophile for their actions and not for the affliction they suffer with.

For it is often the inexplicable yet contorted relation established between the terms of pedophilia and child sexual, that more often than not does more harm than good. For if the intent is to protect the children in true Foucauldian fashion, it is imperative that not only does pedophilia be posited with a statutory and scholarly disposition as a mental disorder, but also there needs to be an equivocal change in the societal understanding of said condition as a medical disorder rather than a pre-emptive crime.


[1] As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

[2] A phenomenon of the 1990’s – Casey Schwartz, What Science reveals about pedophilia, The Daily Beast                             ( July.12, 2011), http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/12/06/what-science-reveals-about-pedophilia.html

[3]Terrence McCoy,  How BBC star Jimmy Savile allegedly got away with abusing 500 children and sex with dead bodies, The Washington Post( June. 27, 2014), https://www.google.co.in/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=jimmy%20savile%20pedohphile

[4]  Matt Rocheleau , Database of accused clergy in Boston Archdiocese, Boston Globe ( Nov. 6, 2015),


[5] Aadil Ikram Zaki, Serial rapist, wanted for 13 years, arrested in Delhi; pedophile admits he sexually assaulted 500 girls, INDIA ( Jan.16, 2017), http://www.india.com/news/india/serial-rapist-arrested-in-delhi-after-13-years-paedophile-admits-he-suxually-assaulted-500-girls-1761770/  

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