Updated: Jul 27
Pedophilia is described as a mental/psychiatric disorder in which adults experience a primary sexual attraction to children who are under the age of puberty, usually under 13 years. This condition is called as Pedophilia Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which defines it as a PARAPHILIA involving intense and recurrent sexual urges towards prepubescent children.
The adults who exhibit such behavior are commonly called as Pedophiles. The International Classification of Diseases, maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as sustained , focused and intense pattern of sexual arousal as manifested by persistent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges or behavior involving pre-pubertal children.
Although it is firmly believed that Pedophilia has occurred throughout history, it was not until late 19th century that it was formally recognized. The term Pedophilia gained it's spot in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952. A Viennese psychiatrist in Richard Von Krafft -Ebing in 1886 in an article coined the term pedophilia erotica. Although brief mentions of Pedophilia were made in some studies on Sexual Psychiatry. It was in the early 20th century that the term started gaining popularity.
Types of Pedophilia :-
It is required that the person be atleast 16 years of age or older to be classified as a Pedophile. Although Pedophilia is mostly reported in case of men. Studies do suggest few women having strong sexual fantasies and desires towards prepubescent children. Most sexual offenders against children are male. Females may account for 0.4% to 4% of convicted sexual offenders. Pedophilia has been categorised into the following, based on the (sexual) age preferences of the Pedophilic adult. These are :
Infantophilia - It refers to the Pedophilic adults whose sexual preference for childrens is those who are or below the age of 5.
This is also sometimes referred to as Nepiophilia.
Hebephilia - This term is used for those adults who have primary sexual preference for childrens between the age of 11 to 14 years.
Some other categories -
Pedohebephilia - It is a combination of Pedophilia and Hebephilia, which means that the person who exhibit such condition have sexual preference for children in the age of 11 to 14 "both prepubescent and pubescent".
Ephebophilia - This term is used for those Pedophilic adults whose sexual preference lies between mid-to-late adolescents between the age of 15 to 19.
Studies on Pedophilia :-
Even after decades since the emergence of the term, a precise reason behind such causes of Pedophilia is still unknown.Various researchers have Published different studies on the topic, providing different theories on its origin, development and causes of Pedophilia. No study, however, has yet given us a Solid and Perfect solution to the problem.
Some studies suggested the link of Pedophilia with Lower IQ's, poor memory, greater rates of non-right-handedness, less physical heights etc.
Some suggested that Pedophiles have normal level IQ's. Some suggested that there could be linked to defects before birth while some studies suggested that there is no link of of Pedophilia with genetic disorders.
Some suggested that Male Pedophiles have lower level of white matter. While some linked it to the lower levels of testosterone.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) has indicated that child molesters diagnosed with pedophilia have reduced activation of the hypothalamus as compared with non-pedophilic persons when viewing sexually arousing pictures of adults. Pedophilia has been described generally as a disorder of sexual preference that emerges during puberty.
According to a study, it has been said that Pedophilia usually co-occurs with depression, anxiety, low self esteem and personality problems. Wilson and Cox studied the characteristics of a Pedophilic club members and reported on the Introversion scale in which Pedophiles showed heightened levels shyness, sensitivity and depression.
Indicators of a Pedophilic Person :-
Generally it would be difficult to differentiate between a Pedophilic and a non-pedophilic person, this is because such people don't have any unique trait or characteristic.
However, there have been certain studies which say the following as characteristics of a Pedophilic Person.
● These include any person suffering from depression, anxiety, mental stress, having low self esteem and Introvert.
● Collection of interest and arousal upon watching Child pornography is also an important indicator.
● Pedophilic viewers of child pornography are most often obsessed about collecting, organizing their child pornography collection based on different types and categories.
Treatment of Pedophilia :-
There is no established method of curing Pedophilia completely. In addition, scientists are not even sure that there is a cure of Pedophilia. Michael Seto a forensic psychologist has claimed that chances of curing Pedophilia in adulthood are extremely low because it's development is influenced by prenatal factors. Various therapies have claimed to cure Pedophilia, however, it has not been proven if those effects are long lasting.
There are certain methods used by therapists -
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT aims to reduce attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that may increase the chances of the disorder. It involves self-control , social competence and empathy and cognitive restructuring and even relapse prevention.
This uses satiation and aversion techniques to suppress the sexual arousal towards children and covert sensitization.
Sex Drive Reduction
This is used to reduce the sex drive in general which can ease the management of Pedophilic arousals but it does not claim to have any effect on sexual preference. They usually work on reducing the level of testosterone.
Pedophilia and Child Molestation :-
In general use pedophile is used to describe all the child sex offenders. This, however, is not correct perception. Studies suggest that the percentage of Pedophiles in a sample of child sex offenders is between 25% to 50%. The rest of them are not Pedophiles.To solve the confusion, these offenders are categorised as Pedophilic and non-Pedophilic (also known here as Preferential or Situational respectively).The motives for non-Pedophilic child sex offenders usually include stress, marital problems, unavailability of sexual partner, anti-social tendencies, high sex drive or alcohol consumption.
Legislations regarding Pedophilia in India:-
Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act 2012 -
The Government of India in 2012 passed the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, to deal with child sexual abuse cases.
As stated in the Act's first chapter
"The POSCO Act 2012, is a comprehensive law to provide for the protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of judicial process by incorporating child friendly mechanisms, for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts."
Although the Act does not exclusively deal with Pedophilic offenders, it covers in total all the aspects from Reporting of the crime to investigation to trial and conviction including even psychiatric services to the victim and how to deal with them.
Goa Children's Act 2003 -
Before the passing of POSCO Act 2012, it was only this Law that exclusively dealt with child sexual abuse.
At the end, it is important to note certain key points:
Pedophilia is a sexual orientation and people find it very difficult to change. The treatments even if completely given, will not guarantee a long term cure.
Psychotherapies that aim to reduce the sexual urges in general by reducing the testosterone levels are found to have been a little more effective that others.
Parents should be aware that most child sexual offenders are the ones who know the children from before and that parents should be more cautious about the surroundings of their children.
Authored: Kanishq Mishra
Department of Law, University of Calcutta