How often have you had a conversation with another person and thought to yourself: “Well, this is some concerning point of view”, but then remembered that we live in a civil society and everyone has a right to express their beliefs freely? Freedom of speech, as one of the five foundations of a strong democracy, guarantees that any person or a group of individuals can freely share their views without fear of legal sanction or censorship. The rationale behind the notion entails that only under the circumstance of the unsuppressed flow of ideas may the self-government by people (the core idea of the concept of democracy) be well-informed, and therefore, considered successful. However, today, when the scope of various belief systems is wider than ever before, and, with some of the worldviews bordering on the line of radicalism and zealotry, the question of whether the freedom of speech can do more harm than good has arisen.
Freedom of expression is not absolute, in the sense that it has its limitations especially when the principle violates other rights. Some cases when freedom of speech may be bounded include non-disclosure agreements, public security, and copyright violations. In these instances, harmful consequences that may occur in case the right of expression is uncontrolled certainly justify the constraints imposed on the principle. However, does this imply that mere expression of thoughts and ideas (whatever those might be) without any potential physical or mental damage is completely innocuous?
The Case Of Pedo Party
Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit (PNVD), otherwise known as The Party for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity, or The Charity, Freedom, and Diversity Party in English, is a Dutch political party with no representation in parliament founded on May 31, 2006. In the media, PNVD is commonly referred to as “pedopartij“ due to its controversial agenda containing a pedophilic context.
According to the party leader, Marthijn Uittenbogaard, PNVD aims to maximize diversity and liberty in society. However, despite the righteousness of the statement, the means of achieving this goal proposed by the party may appear somewhat worrisome. The least concerning propositions of the party suggest free public transport and total abolition of cruelty towards and sexual maltreatment of animals. As commendable as these claims may sound, this is where virtue ends. Although PNVD seeks to eliminate animal abuse, sexual intercourse with animals is not prohibited under the party agenda. PNVD further advocates for the legalization of soft and hard drugs and public nudity, and pursues the eradication of religious schools and marriage as an institution. Moreover, the party program includes anti-immigration laws and a decrease of the legal age to 16 years old.
PNVD received considerable media attention from local and foreign news mostly due to the party’s claims in regards to children. It aims to lower the age of sexual consent to 12 years old with hopes of its total abolition in the long run, reasoning that only coerced sexual contact and abuse should be legally punished and that children should be able to make independent decisions with regards to their sexual education and intimate relationships. The party also seeks to decriminalize (private storage of) child pornography and legalize the day-time broadcasting of obscene materials. Moreover, according to the PNVD agenda, prostitution should be legal at the age of 16.
In 2006, The Party for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity failed to collect 30 signatures from each of 19 Dutch electoral regions, thus failing to achieve representation in the parliament of the Netherlands. Later, in 2010, PNVD dissolved due to the lack of support from the public. However, recently in January 2020, the party resurfaced in hopes that after 14 years, people might be ready for such controversial views.
Judge HFM Hofhuis turned down the request for the ban of the party, citing the five freedoms of democracy including the freedom of speech and expression.
It is worth mentioning that during the first months of the party’s existence, the Soelaas foundation responsible for the investigation of cases of pedophilia sought to outlaw PNVD. However, Judge HFM Hofhuis turned down the request for the ban of the party, citing the five freedoms of democracy including the freedom of speech and expression. The judge ruled that the party has a right to express their moral concerns and the controversy of those concerns does not constitute enough grounds to ban the party.
Two Sides Of The Same Coin?
When the details about the re-emergence of PNVD reached foreign news in 2020, I was in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstani people live in a very traditional and patriarchal society, therefore, naturally, the information about the Dutch “pedo party”, that is trying to get into parliament and distribute their views on the governmental level, stirred the society up.
When having a conversation about this matter, my companion of strongly conservative views claimed that although today people might be appalled by the ideas which PNVD proposes, over time they might start to consider that ideology – just like how a few years ago the notion of same-sex marriage was incomprehensible to a society that today embraces different kinds of sexual orientation. This argument, however absurd it may seem at first, left me thinking for a long time. Indeed, we do not know what might happen in the future. Weren’t people frowning upon homosexuality just a hundred years ago? Following this line of reasoning, might there come a day when pedophilia becomes socially accepted?
All The Difference In The World
While for a period of time homosexuality was regarded as a disorder under the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” by the American Psychiatric Association, in 1952, the research was revised and no scientific or empirical evidence was found to support the previous classification. Thus, homosexuality is nothing but a norm of sexual orientation. Pedophilia, on the contrary, was proved to be a psychiatric disorder and was also included in the first edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” of 1952. After several revisions, the information about the disorder remained relatively unchanged except for a few additions regarding the principles of the diagnosis.
We might be oblivious to the changes that will happen in the future, but it is important to remember that there is a great difference between the efforts to liberate society by introducing alternative views and a gross violation of morality and basic human decency under the pretense of exercising freedom of speech.
Cover: Kevin Grieve