The Dutch Paedophile Emancipation Movement
Dr. Frits Bernard
From Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia, volume 1 number 2 (Autumn 1987), p. 35-45. Copyright © 1987, Frits Bernard. Reprinted by special permission of Frits Bernard and Paidika.
When one describes the history of paedophile emancipation, one must draw on memory, certainly as far as the initial phase is concerned. For today's generation it is barely possible to imagine the circumstances under which paedophiles lived in the years before 1955. They were isolated from one another, and the notion of 'coming out' was not even being talked about. The laws were strictly enforced, and in the Netherlands article 248bis of the Penal Code, enacted in 1911 and abolished in 1971, which discriminated in favor of heterophiles, was still applicable.1 Homosexual contacts and relationships between adults and individuals under the age of 21 were punishable, while the heterosexual age of consent was 16. Paedophilia was not yet an issue, and the term 'sexual minority' was not yet being used. There was very little literature on the subject, except for psychiatric papers dominated by an analysis of the pathological aspects of paedophilia.
Homosexuality was also a difficult matter in society; however, the work of the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee (founded at the turn of the century in Berlin by Dr. Magnus Hirschfield2) had been a pioneer in this area. There was a Dutch branch represented by L.S.A.M. von Römer, a doctor from Amsterdam. Also influential in the homosexual movement in the first years of our century was the magazine Der Eigene, ein Blatt für männliche Kultur, published by Adolf Brand, as well as the writings of John Henry Mackay, published under the name "Sagitta".
The evolution of National Socialism in Germany meant the end of the contributions of Hirschfeld, and of sexology in general, in that country. The Dutch branch of the Komitee was dissolved a few days after the German occupation began. By the end of World War II there remained very little of what had been started.
In 1940 I communicated by telephone with Jhr. Mr. J.A. Schorer, who at the time was the chairman of the Wetenschappelijk Humanitaire Comité in the Netherlands. Through him I came into contact with Dr. Benno Premsela, who was one of the first sexologists in the Netherlands. These were the first concrete steps I took concerning the paedophile issue. However, the German invasion and the dissolution of the Comité prevented any further contacts until the next decade.
Human beings have the tendency not to make judgements based on facts,
especially in sexual matters, but rather on simplified abstractions of reality.
New facts, including scientific research, are generally not accepted or
respected. This had long been the case with homosexuality. Misguided notions
thrived, and there was active resistance to any revision of opinion. The
question which occupied me was how to combat this attitude and bring paedophilia
into the forum of discussion, and thus better the lot of those with paedophile
feelings. I concluded that the giving of information and advice had to take
precedence, but scholarly and scientific studies had to be initiated and a group
of active people who would devote themselves to the integration of child
sexuality and paedophilia into society would have to be organized. Up to this
point in time, nothing of this kind had existed. It was a totally new idea.
If one sees paedophilia as the loving of children, also in the erotic sense, and this can mean girls and/or boys, then it is clear that paedophilia does not fall under the category of homosexuality. Nevertheless, one of my first contacts was with a homosexual organization. I had my first conversation with Bob Anglelo (pseudonym for Niek Engelschman) in 1957. He was at that time chairman of the Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum (COC, Culture and Leisure Center), an organization in the Netherlands which concerns itself with the interests of homosexuals. I wanted to build on my idea of creating a section which would focus on the interests of paedophiles within the COC. The COC, today called the Nederlandse Vereniging tot Integratie van Homosexualiteit COC (Netherlands Association for the Integration of Homosexuality), 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, some long, some short, in its monthly magazine Vriendschap (Friendship).3 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.4 In an article there I 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. Because of their anxiety the plans were torpedoed and the formation of a paedophile group within the homosexual organization was foiled. My plans had failed, because the time was not ripe. Another Dutch society, the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Sexuele Hervorming (NVSH; Netherlands Association for Sexual Reform), had also long expressed objections to the issue of paedophilia and everything connected with it. The NVSH was to change its attitudes in the early 1970s.
In the meantime my attempts to form the 'Enclave Kring' were taking shape. The name Enclave was chosen because this reflected the fact that paedophiles live in isolation, in a kind of enclave. The start was difficult and by no means a bed of roses.
Although, from the very beginning, Enclave was meant for heterophile as well as homophile paedophiles, the group developed more in the homophile direction. Why is not clear. There did evolve, remarkably enough in Spain, the Lolita Club, a small club in which a number of heterosexual paedophiles had united. The members corresponded anonymously with each other and exchanged non-pornographic photographs through the mail. This organization dissolved without a trace. Nothing more was heard about the founder, a businessman from Barcelona. What exactly happened will most likely never come to light.
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.
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. And yet Enclave remained, in part, an underground movement. The time for a real 'coming out' was years away.
The objectives of the International Enclave Movement were (among others) to break down prejudice about the issues of erotic contacts and relationships between minors and adults, and to provide information and advice as well as to initiate a direct assistance program. It goes without saying that efforts were made toward a revision of the penal code.
The background philosophy of the international Enclave Movement was to attempt 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.5 The aspirations of Enclave were therefore justifiable.
Ultimately the whole paedophile problem is a political problem. I have often argued that facts are the basis for constructive discussion in politics. In a discussion about paedophilia it is essential to lay the facts on the table before any discussion leading to a resolution can begin. It is only then that a debate about, for example, the lowering of the age of consent can bear fruit. Without a doubt, emotions will continue to play a role and on the whole can fulfill a positive role at that by revealing where the spheres of intolerance are. When those with paedophile feelings become angry, this can be taken as a signal and can show up the injustice of their situation. We should take these emotions very seriously and not reproach them. But listening to others will always be a difficult business.
In early 1958 I wrote the novella Costa Brava and the novel Vervolgde Minderheid (Persecuted Minority), which was accompanied by a scholarly afterword.6 The progressive press Storm, in Utrecht, was willing to print the books, something which was a bit difficult in those days. There was a delay in the finishing stages and the books therefore did not come out until 1960, and then on the same day. Costa Brava took place against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and Vervolgde Minderheid in the Netherlands of the 1950s. They were published by Enclave in Rotterdam and were meant to reach a broad public with the intention of bringing the issue of sexuality between adults and children to light. In those days I could not have guessed that these works would, in later years, be released in many countries in translation through established publishers.
It was also in 1960 that the three-part series "Ephebophilie en Weterischap" appeared in Vriendschap. This series presented a closer investigation of the concepts of paedophilia and ephebophilia. In this article I proposed that paedophiles are primarily interested in the child who has not yet reached puberty and ephebophiles are principally interested in children during the age of puberty and after. The boundary between the two is not rigid as the one phenomenon flows into the other, but it is nevertheless important to keep them distinct. Authors such as Benedict Friedländer and John Henry Mackay put the accent on ephebophilia and not on paedophilia in its full sense of love for children. Inaccuracy in the descriptions of the two has led to much confusion and misunderstanding, before and now. Especially in America and England this difference is ignored, so that paedophilia is understood to mean all adult sexual contact with minors.
Enclave remained primarily an underground movement as the times dictated. The hostility toward paedophiles was too great. 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 published7, as well as a whole series of brochures. This does not include articles in other publications in the Netherlands and abroad. They were years of great productivity.
There were also various magazines sympathetic with the goals of Enclave, among which were the German magazines Der Weg zu Freundschaft und Toleranz, published by Wolf H.F. Prien in Hamburg, Amigo from Denmark, and Verstandig Ouderschap, a monthly from the NVSH, in which very positive discussions appeared about Enclave publications. Among the personalities who sought contact with Enclave were authors such as Jef Last8, Cor Huisman9, Heinz Oelfke10, and scholars such as Willhart S. Schlegel and Albr. D. Dieckhoff, a lawyer in Hamburg and author of Der Protestanten Bericht, nebst volständiger Übersetzung des Griffin Report.
In order to guarantee privacy Enclave did not maintain a list of members. It quickly became apparent from the letters from many paedophiles how important it was to have an address to which he or she could write about difficulties. Here is an excerpt from a letter written in 1961:
Many of the writers ended their letter with a request that it be destroyed, so we have lost an important body of historical documentation.
One letter of historical interest that was preserved came from Jan Hanlo, 14 September, 1962. He later became one of the most important contemporary Dutch writers, and his letters will soon be published by Van Oorschot:
Here is one more excerpt from a letter written in 1965:
In 1964 preparations for the release of an international journal were actually well underway. The first number was ready for press. 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.
Around 1960 I went to America where I made contacts with prominent figures in the New York homosexual movement, my intention being to rally support for the goals of Enclave. I was received enthusiastically and the results of the trip were promising. In the meantime I made contacts with individuals in a great number of other countries. In 1960 I travelled to Japan, something unusual before the jet-age. In August of that year I lectured at the University of Nishinomiya within the framework of a congress organized by the Japanese Psychological Association (University of Tokyo).12 Contacts in Kyoto, Yokohama and Tokyo were followed by discussions with those interested in Enclave. Other places I visited in the same year were the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. Close contacts were maintained with a number of European countries, especially Germany. A correspondence with paedophiles in a few African countries began as well.
Enclave has been cited in scholarly literature outside of the Netherlands, for example in Tom O'Carroll's book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. O'Carroll writes, "Work towards paedophile emancipation had started in Holland in the 1950s, with the growth of the Enclave Movement, which brought paedophiles into correspondence with each other, both inside and outside Holland. In 1958 Enclave became an international publishing house specifically oriented towards paedophile books."13
Between 1966 and 1969 the activities of Enclave diminished, not because the problems had become less urgent but because I was occupied by other matters at the time. The development of a second phase of emancipation would not take shape until the 1970s.
The NVSH had long objected to paedophilia. After the conference "De Staat als Zedenmeester" (The State as Keeper of Morals) in 1969, its attitude towards paedophilia slowly changed. The old structure of the existing organization disappeared, a process of democratization took place, and it was easier for a grass roots movement to spring up. The by-laws of the organization underwent change. Early in 1970 a number of prominent members came together in order to devise a program to deal with the issue of paedophilia. In actuality this was the start, in early January, of the paedophile workgroups. A number of resolutions were adopted which influenced all later developments. 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 experts14 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 signalled the beginning of a new development.
Paedophile workgroups 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.
The book Sex met Kinderen had an effect throughout Europe and abroad. The historian Dr. E. Born underlines the effect of the book in the Netherlands in the foreword of his brochure Paedophile Integration after 1959:
The national paedophile workgroups attained official status in the form of the Hoofdbestuurscommissie Pedofilie, NVSH, on January 20, 1973. New local paedophile workgroups still continue to come into being.
In an information brochure from 1973 the goal of the workgroups was presented as follows:
An above-ground organization had arisen from an underground movement. This could not have happened without the painstaking work done in the fifties and sixties.
Paedophilia became a topic outside of the NVSH too. The media gave the matter attention. Under the auspices of the Nationaal Centrum voor Geestelijke Volksgezondheid (NCGV; National Center for Mental Health) a special workgroup was formed in 1973 to deal with the possibilities of assistance for paedophiles. Already existing welfare programs could not handle this issue, as they were not adequately informed about paedophilia. This NCGV workgroup was made up of prominent authorities in various areas such as psychology, criminology, psychiatry, etc.17 This new group met for the first time on March 18, 1974, in Utrecht. Their objectives were thus outlined:
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:
In the report the words "paedophilia" and "paedophile" are defined as follows:
At the end of the report there is an overview of the legal situation in various countries at the time it was written. It concludes:
The report was clearly needed; extra copies had to be printed, and discussion on the subject began.
In the meantime the National Workgroup of the NVSH organized five international meetings in Breda between 1973 and 1975.22 This was the first real "coming out"! These meetings in Breda also resulted in the formation of workgroups abroad. The NVSH was the model.
Since 1976 the National Workgroup on Paedophilia has given itself the sub-title Werkgroep tot Emancipatie van Oudere-Jongere-relaties (Workgroup for the Emancipation of Intergenerational Relationships), indicating that they were concerned with a broader question than just paedophilia. In 1979 the name was changed to Landelijke Werkgroep Jeugdemancipatie (National Workgroup for the Emancipation of Children). From that point the accent was placed on the child, and the emancipation of the child was of central importance. The right of children to have sexual contact, as well as their right not to have sexual contact, was included in the program. The lack of children's rights to have sexual contacts or not have them was seen as a problem that needed a solution.
After the five international congresses in Breda the 1977 Congress "Pedofilie en Samenleving" (Paedophilia and Society), in the RAI building in Amsterdam, was a new peak in the history of paedophile emancipation, a coming out clearly directed to the outside world. The Congress was held under the auspices of the NVSH and the NCGV. 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.
In connection with this we should also mention the second sex information exhibition "Sexuality '78" (also called "The Sex Fair"), which was held from September 1 to 10, 1978, in the AHOY building in Rotterdam, and which drew many visitors. The National Paedophile Workgroup, NVSH, participated, along with four other NVSH national workgroups.23 The COC also took part, as did the Rutger Stichting.
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 has not been implemented, it indicates that the sexuality of children under 16 years of age is taken seriously here 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.
Still active is "Stichting Martijn" (Amsterdam). They produce a high quality monthly magazine, O.K.: Info-magazine over Ouderen-Kinderen-relaties. It prints the latest news as well as background information and is illustrated with photos and sketches. In addition, it makes available a "Press Focus" to members--a monthly newspaper of clippings about sex and emancipation.24
Looking back on the 1970s, we can see that they were years of initiative, emancipation, research, and above all optimism. The 1980s have proved otherwise. After 1982-1983 the deterioration has been rapid. 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.25 The recovery has been slow.
Paedophile organizations in foreign countries have had great problems: the Swiss and French-speaking Belgian groups were destroyed by police action, and many people were arrested. Everywhere there has been an hysteria over paedophilia and child sexuality, often degenerating 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.
The Dutch organizations stand in the breach. They are again needed now more than ever.26
Was There Ever a Chance of Success? (Update)
Herman de Coninck came to the conclusion in an article he wrote in Humo (1994) that paedophiles had by then almost achieved their aims.
An article by Rineke van Daalen and Bram van Stolk appeared in the special issue of De Psycholoog (official monthly organ of the Netherlands Psychological Association) of July/August 1993 entitled "Psychological Help With Problems Involving Homosexuality, Paedophilia and Sexual Abuse: The pressure of the social debate", from which the following conclusions can be cited:
Evaluation and Conclusions
Paedophile emancipation in The Netherlands began about 30 years ago. An historical analysis reveals how this process has taken place up to the present time:
a) Before about 1955 there were absolutely no developments in paedophile emancipation. Paedophiles lived in isolation. There was only a single, one-sided, and above all dubious psychiatric approach.
b) Between about 1955 and 1965 Enclave began to challenge this view. Paedophiles came into contact with one another. Aid for paedophiles was started. A new vision of the phenomenon developed. Scientific research was set on the agenda. The COC played an important part in all of this through its monthly publication Vriendschap.
c) The years between 1965 and 1970 were a period of consolidation. The COC rejected paedophilia; its new magazine Dialoog was not sympathetic.
d) The decade of the seventies saw a number of Enclave initiatives put into action. Within the NVSH the national paedophile workgroup was formed. The book Sex met kinderen appeared in 1972. Scientific research was carried out. Once again paedophiles came together, but this time under the aegis of a non-paedophile organization. There were congresses in Breda between 1973 and 1975, the first "coming out". The workgroup took on its own identity. There was an important symposium in Amsterdam in 1977. The workgroup appeared more and more often in newspapers, on radio and television. At the end of the seventies there was a shift of emphasis: now, within the work group, the child was perceived as the most important element and emancipation of children the group's most important goal.
e) During the 1980s emancipation suffered reversals. People started to question whether the vision of sexual emancipation was correct.
According to C. Straver, the process of emancipation has three phases which, in my opinion, are roughly applicable to paedophilia. They are:
1.) An advance guard of the elite comes cautiously out in order to plead the interests of the group with the dominant forces of government and society with their prevailing opinions, appealing to and confident in their sense of justice and rejection of prejudice.
2.) Through mutual association the group forms its own identity and works toward an increase of self-awareness. The accent is upon self-knowledge, but there are a few outward initiatives.
3.) The group comes out, forges a strategy to have its wishes granted, confronts the dominant elements of society with its stands and the justice of its demands by means of education and provocative actions. The accent is on outward activities directed toward integration into society, being considered equal. Helping and caring for one another assume second place.27
Through my psychotherapeutic practice, as advisor in forensic cases, through Enclave, COC and NVSH, and by means of personal contact, I have met more than a thousand people with paedophile feelings during the course of the years. The number of children I met who had contacts with adults was over three thousand. When I review in my mind all these cases, I can only come to the following conclusions: