Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) in Cambodia and Operation Bobbi Bear (OBB) in South Africa, the initiators of the “Ring the Alarm” petition are both non-governmental-organizations which experience first-hand the disruptive consequences of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The consequences of this are immense. It is widely acknowledged that sex and sexual contact between children and adults affects the psychological development of a child in a negative way and leads to personality disorders and maladjusted behaviors. There is sufficient evidence that consequences of child abuse are behavioral, emotional, physical, psychological, social, medical, and socio-economical (1). The negative impact of abuse also applies to and affects the victims’ families, the communities that they live in and, on a bigger scale, the society that they are a part of. We therefore believe that child sexual abuse is not only a crime against the victim, but because of the subsequent suffering of the victims’ families and their communities, it is a crime against society.
According to their own statements, members of Martijn are aware that sexual activities with minors are illegal. A number of its (former) members are convicted child-molesters and have spent (multiple) prison terms for sexual offences with and against minors. However, through Martijn, they advocate that what they did actually should not be considered illegal and that it is even in the best interest of children when free, sexual contact between children and adults is accepted by society and the law. By tolerating an association like this, we fear that the appeal court in Leeuwarden has paved the way for members of Martijn and other pedophiles to organize themselves and pursue further advocacy for normalizing sexual relationships between children and adults. We realize that there is a difference between allowing people and/or an organization to advocate for something what they believe in and actually practicing those beliefs. However, we also believe that allowing an organization like Martijn to exist will dangerously decrease the gap between believing and doing.
There are different reasons why the existence of organizations like Martijn in The Netherlands negatively affects us, the children that we serve and our societies, even though most of us are based in other parts of the world. First of all, (digital) globalization offers many opportunities for pedophiles to get in contact with and take advantage of vulnerable children all around the world. APLE for instance, deals with sex offenders who travel from all around the world to Cambodia to target children there. OBB deals mostly with sexual abuse within South African communities, but also deals with victims of child pornography, which is in high demand and spread throughout the world. Poverty is a huge contributing factor, which offers sexual predators from richer parts of the world many opportunities to target children in poorer communities. Marthijn Uittenbogaard, one of Martijn’s well-known members, stated himself that a member of Martijn made a sex-holiday to the Philipines (2). Teko van M., (former) Secretary of Martijn, was reportedly convicted twice for child sexual abuse, together with other members of a support group for pedophiles who organized sex-holidays to Tunisia and committed sexual crimes against children there (3). Poverty and a lack of means within our communities and countries, in combination with weak legal systems, also lower the chances of child sex travelers getting tried and convicted. The existence of an organization like Martijn in The Netherlands is therefore extremely concerning when fighting for the safety and integrity of children. A ban on Martijn (and similar organizations) will send a clear signal to its members, other pedophiles and child molesters that it is not accepted to advocate for sexual contact with children or, even worse, actually abusing or exploiting children (anywhere in the world) for sexual pleasure.
Furthermore, we feel a strong sense of global social responsibility. This leads us to fight for the safety of children all around the world as much as we can. This includes children in The Netherlands, who are at risk of becoming victims of pedophiles. In many ways, the Dutch government, Dutch organizations and the Dutch public have shown a sense of responsibility for the well-being and safety of children in our countries as well. This has been shown to us through Dutch development aid, funding and Dutch volunteers who have assisted organizations like ours all over the world. With the ‘Ring the Alarm’ initiative we want to show the Dutch government and public that we feel the same responsibility towards the well-being and safety of their children.
With this petition we call on any organization and individual worldwide that deals with and/or is affected by child sexual abuse, to support this petition so that we can send a strong and clear signal to the Dutch government on our stance against the permitted existence of Martijn and similar organizations. Together we can speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves!