'Revolting' paedophilia manuals now officially criminalised in Belgium

'Revolting' paedophilia manuals now officially criminalised in Belgium
Credit: Dirk Waem/ Belga

The possession, manufacturing and distribution of so-called paedophilia manuals — often more than 1,000-page handbooks that circulate online and include tips on how to abuse children, remove evidence and evade the police — will officially become punishable by law in Belgium.

Such manuals have repeatedly been found by the Federal Judicial Police, either widely accessible on the internet or the dark web or on suspects' computers. While in most cases other offences were linked to the possession of these handbooks, the acts related to the manuals themselves were not explicitly punishable.

"Paedophilia manuals are revolting. They incite child abuse and make children extra vulnerable. Strict action must therefore be taken against this," Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said.

He added that due to the subtle manner in which paedophilia manuals are presented — the handbooks are only criminalised if they contain suggestive or explicit pictures or drawings of minors — there is always a chance of acquittal. "That people who engage in such pernicious practices could still go free is unacceptable," he noted.

This is about to change, as Van Quickenborne has made these acts — of possessing, manufacturing and/or distributing such handbooks — punishable in the draft of the new Criminal Code, for which a broad definition was used to ensure that abuse manuals are not repeatedly modified to fall outside the jurisdiction.

The manufacturing, distribution, possession and acquisition of such manuals will now carry prison sentences of up to five years, while those who access this content can receive between six months to 3 years imprisonment.

EU-wide ban still needed

The decision was welcomed by Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans, who led an initiative to ban these types of online manuals on an EU level in March last year and previously pointed out the loopholes in Belgian legislation. As the laws differ per EU country, these loopholes continue to exist across the continent.

"You won't believe it until you see them. These manuals give tips and tricks on how to approach and abuse children without leaving traces, they normalise paedophilia and sexual relations with minors and are therefore, in my opinion, a danger to society," she noted.

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Belgium now joins Germany and the Netherlands, previously the only two EU countries with legislation restricting the possession and distribution of paedophile instruction manuals on the Internet and the dark web. In the Netherlands, the justice minister is also working on a draft law on the subject.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is looking at whether a European ban on paedophile manuals can come about through a revision of the directive to combat child sexual abuse.

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