815A children(names witheld) plays on the Child Clinic floor and they ubused. Boksburg Johannesburg Picture:Dumisani Dube 01.06.2015

Johannesburg - While last week saw a major victory in the fight against child pornography in South Africa, a lot of work needs to be done to combat the scourge, activist group Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA ) says.

On Friday, the kingpin of a child pornography syndicate, Antony Evans, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Grahamstown High Court.

Evans was arrested at his home in the Eastern Cape in March during a joint operation between the police and the FBI.

His illegal activities were discovered by US law-enforcement authorities after seven people were arrested there for using websites that lured children to engage in pornographic activities.

After further investigation, it was discovered that the sites were administrated in South Africa, and that about 600 victims, aged between 8 and 13, had been exploited.

One of the websites, of which Evans was the webmaster, would create false profiles on social media, with users pretending to be in the same age brackets as their targets in order to lure them.

WMACA director Miranda Friedmann believes that he should have been sentenced to separate terms for each of the numerous charges against him - including production, distribution, dissemination, voluntary receipt and possession of images of child sexual abuse.

“In meetings we have held with investigators and prosecutors, deep frustration has been expressed with the sentencing policies of South African courts. Hence we continue to see the granting of bail and insignificant suspended sentences, mere fines and minimal plea bargains for these crimes.

“It appears that our courts, using their discretion, do not see these crimes as serious,” Friedmann said.

According to WMACA, downloading, viewing and distribution of child pornography have yet to be classified as Schedule 5 or 6 offences in the Criminal Procedures Act, something that has to change.

“The general response to child pornography is it’s just ‘kiddie porn’ and pictures, so we need to stress what the background and reality is - actual rape of children to make these images. There seems to be no thinking around the victim that gave rise to an image of child rape. The reality is that there is a victim who needs help in every image,” Friedmann pointed out.

Meanwhile, representatives from the organisation will be attending the Europol Conference in The Hague this week. The conference focuses on the growing global problem of images of sexual exploitation of children on the internet.

According to Wmaca, this is the first time the South African government has been invited. The organisation hopes that the conference will teach local authorities - specifically the cyber unit dealing with child porn - how other countries combat the crime.

“As our country highlights some of the achievements during Child Protection Week from Sunday to Friday, the sad reality is that abuse and neglect of children is not in decline,” Friedmann said. “Millions of children around the world and in our country are in danger of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence - at home, at school, in the community and increasingly in cyber space.”

She said better education and awareness were essential to protect children.

“Besides legal protection and legislation, we first should start with prevention. We are not going to simply prosecute our way out of this problem.

“Parents must work to overcome the ‘generational digital divide’ and take a vested interest in the technology they give their children, educating them on their safe use and on the potential ramifications of careless online behaviour,” she added.

[email protected]

The Star