Right of Reply: Linda Bellos

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The Independent Culture
YOUR LEADING article on paedophiles not only misses the point about sex tourism; it may inadvertently be adding to a real problem. The sexual abuse of children, at home or abroad, is not done chiefly by so- called "paedophiles". Indeed, I think that we should all stop using this word, whose etymology means "a lover of children".

If there are some men who can be defined as able to realise sexual desire only with children, they are a small, sad and even sick minority. Most of those who sexually abuse children in the UK are married men. Ordinary fathers, uncles and grandfathers. They do not see themselves as paedophiles, and technically they are not; but that does not make their actions or behaviour any less reprehensible.

To continue to use the word "paedophile" when we mean "abuser" is to obscure what is happening in our midst, while we set our gaze at some distant and monstrous outsider.

Feminists have long argued against sex tourism. As early as 1982, a group of which I was a member campaigned against European men travelling to Thailand to gain access to children not available to them at home. Those men, according to our contacts, were heterosexual businessmen who used boys or girls; young, economically dependent and vulnerable. Most of these men will never appear on a paedophile register, because they behave themselves when at home.

Not all men abuse their children, but the majority of children are abused by their relatives rather than by strangers. This is the fact that must be faced, and the longer the word, and the idea, of "paedophile" is used, the longer this society will fail to tackle a real problem.

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