Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Retailers’ sexualization of girls boosts child porn and human trafficking: MEP report

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, June 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A grassroots movement, led by parents but including business, is building at the pan-European level to counter the hyper-sexualization of children, especially young girls, in the fashion industry and media. Retailers in Britain have admitted that they have “gone too far” and are cooperating with a program that allows parents to register complaints directly to a business association, Anna Kuchta, an organizer at the European Union told LifeSiteNews.com today. 

“The conjoined explosion of music video culture, the internet, the computer games, and the commercial targeting of youth as sexual beings is having an intensely noxious effect on youth culture,” she said.

Kuchta said that the MEPs and governments are becoming aware that the sexualization of children is inseparable from hypersexualization of culture as a whole. And awareness is also growing of its connection to the associated growth of the multi-billion-Euro human trafficking and child pornography industries.

Earlier this month, a European Parliament group led by Polish MEP Joanna Skrzydlewska held hearings on the problem of the sexualization of children. The EU conference focused on a wide range of problem material not only from TV but also from video games, the Internet, newspapers, magazines and music videos. Skrzydlewska said the problem is “nothing more than imposing the sexuality of adults on young children, teenagers and especially girls when they are not ready for it emotionally, mentally or physically.”

Kuchta, Skrzydlewska’s parliamentary assistant, said that the problem has been slow to dawn on businesses, but now that more concerns are being raised they are taking steps to curtail inappropriate materials reaching young girls. Gaining the cooperation of retailers, she said, is a major step forward, since this is where the cultural rubber hits the road.

“Honestly speaking, there has been lots of response from businesses,” Kuchta said in a phone interview today. “British retail companies have created an association and a code of good practice.” They have also created a website, called Stop Shop, where they can respond directly to parents’ concerns.

There came a moment, Kuchta said, when the business leaders saw that they had gone too far and could “see that push-up bras for 12 year-olds is inappropriate”. Although the movement in the EU was originally sparked by the work of U.S. psychology researchers, Kuchta said it has really taken hold of the public mind in Britain, where the government is making the problem a priority.

A parents’ NGO based in Paris has contacted the EU Parliamentarians saying that progress is also being made in France, where government regulation already exists. The French group, Kuchta said, is working towards creating cooperation between parents, schools, business and “civil society”. The group is working on a public campaign, featuring popular pop and TV stars and the fashion magazine Marie Claire.

“The worrying phenomenon of the hypersexualization of our environment has noxious effects on young people. What is more, the hypersexualization of public spaces relies on and reinforces well established sexual stereotypes, according to which girls should be not only pretty and skinny but also sexy and hot and the boys should play the macho role and dominate the girls,” Kuchta said.

“From a very young age, girls are treated as sexual objects, their development is not respected, and the lines between childhood and adulthood are blurred.  Children, especially girls are the targets of marketing specialists who sell them age inappropriate products so they will become lifetime customers.”

In the past it was adult women who felt the imperative to look “sexy”. Now this imperative is in danger of being adopted by younger and younger girls who will inevitably face the same feelings of inadequacy, failure to live up to an unrealistic ideal.

Skrzydlewska, whose doctoral dissertation was on the subject, says that many young women now believe that “the only confidence worth having is sexual confidence” and in fact, “it seems that what this hyper-sexualized society is selling to girls is actually a caricature of sexual confidence”. Hyper-sexualized images and messages are having a profound impact, researchers have found, with girls becoming more concerned with how others perceive them than with their own interests and desires.

This self-objectification fits well, she said, with the current media focus on self- improvement, not in the form of learning new skills but of enhancing one’s physical appearance.

“By all aspects of sexualisation we are stealing childhood from children by pushing them to become ‘little adults,’ and by making them experience emotions that are difficult to deal with at their young age.” Children do not possess the ability to interpret them correctly and critically and the result is poor self-esteem, depression and even dangerous eating disorders, she said.

Pornography shapes young people’s sexual knowledge but does so by portraying sex in unrealistic ways, she says. Moreover, pornography “is increasingly dominated by themes of aggression, power and control, blurring the lines between consent, pleasure and violence.”

According to researcher Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, there has been a marked increase in the number of sites that “infantilize women” which results in changes in perceptions of child pornography among adults. When girls are dressed to resemble adult women, people may associate adult motives and even a sense of adult responsibility onto the child. Depicting young girls dressed or made up as sexually mature older women may serve to normalize abusive practices such as child abuse or sexual exploitation.

Papadopoulos cites studies showing a link between pornography use and sexual behavior. One study conducted in the US shows that 29 per cent of high school students said that pornography had influenced their sexual behavior. A European study showed that 53 per cent of young men said pornography had “ inspired” their sexual behavior.

The EU report, not yet available in English, says that pornography has led the way to more men looking at children as objects of sexual desire, “especially after they clicked on the pop-up ads for teen porn” which lead eventually into real child porn.

“For some men, the teen sites were just a stepping stone to the real thing, as they moved seamlessly from adult women to children,” the report says.

Home Office research suggests that the porn and child porn industries and human trafficking are growing in tandem. In 2003 up to 4,000 women were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK and in 2009 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimated that the potential number of child trafficking victims was 325.

The link between pornography and organized crime is a long and established one. Together pornography, human trafficking and prostitution contribute to a network of exploitation that fuels the global sex trade, Kuchta said. According to the UN, global profits from the trafficking of human beings currently stand at around US $7 billion, equivalent in monetary terms to the global trade in drugs.

Simply put, the porn industry has created a market for children, which is being supplied by human trafficking, she said.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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