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You would never want to harm a child, would you?

Association Martijn, Ethical Commission, 
The Netherlands, March 2012


Intimacy can be desired or undesired. Everybody is aware of this. It has become increasingly clear how serious and long-lasting the effects of undesired intimacy can be. However besotted you may be with a child, that does not make the child your property. The child belongs to the child. But... maybe it is possible for you to have a close relationship with the child.

The Martijn Association advises all its members to observe the law and to act in accordance with the following guidelines. Exercise integrity in all situations involving children while respecting: 

  1. Consent: the consent of both in every contact.
  2. Freedom: freedom for the child to end the contact if desired.
  3. Harmony: acting in accordance with the child’s development.
  4. Openness: openness towards the parents, especially in the case of young children.

An exploration of these issues


Within a friendship there is a possibility for intimacy of a voluntary, desired and harmless nature. Harm can be caused principally where there is undesired intimacy. Harm can also be done by a society that uses its power to end or prevent a contact or a relationship.

However, harm can also occur after there has been desired intimacy, especially after sexual contact, because of concerns about keeping it secret, feelings of shame and guilt – which may or may not be justified, but which the sufferer feels to be justified. Such feelings can weigh heavily and interfere with a person’s development. It cannot be predicted or guaranteed that no harm will be caused in the long run. Bear this in mind in any contact with children.


The freedom to make one’s own choices is a precondition for responsible friendships. Both the adult and the young person have a right to self-determination and the obligation to recognise the other’s right to the same. The measure of self-determination and the possibilities for exercising it will differ from case to case, and depending on a person’s age, but self-determination should always be a factor to be taken into account. The adult has a responsibility to take signals sent by a child seriously.


Within a friendship, both persons must have the freedom to end the contact at any desired moment.
In relations or contacts of dependence (such as between parent and child or a teacher and pupil), there is no possibility to end the contact. The measure of intimacy is therefore delineated in such relations by two ethical principles:
A large measure of distance is undesirable.
A large measure of intimacy is also undesirable because of the lack of complete freedom of choice.


There are very considerable differences between young children and older adolescents. Any contact should be appropriate to the child’s phase of development. A child will normally indicate what he or she is ready for. 


Openness within a friendship is of great value and is normally possible. Openness towards others is not always possible. Intimacy between boys, for instance, is usually a strong taboo in schools, causing stress to young people with homosexual feelings.

Adolescents often make a conscious choice to keep secrets. They make their own decisions and do not want interference in their affairs. Sometimes the responsible thing to do is to respect their decisions.

We recommend that people avoid the need for younger friends to keep secrets, especially where younger children are concerned. Take the living situation of the young person into account and ask yourself how their environment will react.
It is of crucial importance for young children to have an open relationship with their parents. We therefore recommend openness towards a child's parents. 

Another piece of advice to our members

It is best not to deny or suppress one’s own paedophile feelings. Accept them as a fact and find a way of dealing with them in society and in accordance with the law. 
Do not isolate yourself: participate in society. When talking about ‘the child’, it is advisable to mention the age that you are referring to.


People with paedophile feelings have a need to discuss them with each other, something from which society also stands to benefit. These people also have a right to, and therefore claim, a say in matters and participation in discussions about values, norms and laws. If they are allowed to participate in society in this way, they will be more likely to respect it and, in line with the above recommendations, to respect the limits imposed by society.

PS by Frans Gieles:

See and cfr also:

Gieles, F.E.J., "I didn't know how to deal with it", Young people speak out about their sexual contacts with adults, translated from the Dutch NVSH Lwg JORis Newsletter, april 1998.

Gieles, Frans, Ethics and human rights in intergenerational relationships ; ‘First, do no harm’ ; In: Ipce Newsletter E 17, June 2004 

Since the mid-1990s, Ipce members have held discussions about ethics. I have listened to the members. In this article, I will summarize the salient points of several opinions I have heard.

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