• Sweden edition
 
Swedish national library in child porn scandal

Swedish national library in child porn scandal

Published: 21 Jan 2009 15:36 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Jan 2009 15:36 GMT+01:00

A former porn shop employee has revealed that the library's archives contain thousands of pornographic magazines, including several titles featuring young children.

In the 1970s, Valentin Bart spent a year working in a pornographic book store near Stockholm’s central train station which at the time was known as the city’s red light district.

One shelf at the store displayed magazines featuring child pornography, which was legal in Sweden at the time.

“They were really repulsive,” Bart told The Local.

But on a recent visit to the National Library, he was surprised to learn that magazines featuring boys he estimated were as young as 10 or 11 years old were being held by the institution. Bart noted the irony in Sweden's national library - called Kungliga Biblioteket or 'Royal Library' in Swedish - containing materials that Queen Silvia has passionately campaigned against for years

“It was so easy to gain access,” he said of his visit, which took place in the autumn of 2008.

“All I did was sign up to check out books and send a letter explaining my reasons for wanting to view the material. Anyone could have done the same thing.”

In his letter requesting access, Bart said he was investigating the history of child pornography in Sweden in order to tell the “long, secret story” of how “child pornography was legal and commercially exploited in Sweden”.

The presence of child pornography in Sweden’s National Library stems in part from the library’s legal obligation to collect everything printed in Sweden or in Swedish, including pornographic magazines.

While it’s widely known that a wave of liberal thinking about sex and pornography swept across Sweden in the 1960s, fewer people are aware that it led to the legalization of child pornography.

The government at the time initiated a review of freedom of speech laws in 1965, looking closely at provisions governing the portrayal of children.

In 1971, a new law was passed which made it legal to buy, sell, and possess child, animal, and violent pornography in Sweden.

In the wake of the relaxed restrictions, a number of pornographic magazines were produced with names like Teenangels, Bambino and Lolita, each sending obligatory issues for archiving at the National Library.

According to the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), Swedish attitudes towards child pornography were extremely liberal at the time.

Citing “the child’s right to sexuality”, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande – RFSL) launched a 'paedophile working group' to lobby for lighter sentences for sex crimes against minors and for a lower age of consent.

RFSL’s efforts paid off in 1976, when a government commission issued a proposal including both suggestions, as well as the decriminalization of incest.

The bill never became law, however, and Sweden eventually recriminalized child pornography in 1980, and RFSL switched positions on the matter.

By then, however, the archive of child pornography at the National Library had continued to expand and remained largely accessible to the public until Bart brought the issue to the library’s attention.

Bart is hesitant to call himself an anti-child pornography advocate. Rather, his motivation in pursuing the issues stems from what he sees as a contradiction in Swedish law.

On the one hand, it is illegal to possess or distribute or show child pornography in Sweden; on the other hand, the National Library is obligated by law to archive everything printed in Sweden, including magazines featuring child pornography.

“I just want to shed light on this issue,” he said.

“Call it a paradox, call it hypocrisy, call it what you will, but we’ve got laws in this country that work against one another.”

National library spokesperson Sara Bengtzon admitted the library has a “a lot of sensitive material” because of its obligation to archive, but access to the material is restricted to researchers, journalists, and others who are deemed to have a “highly credible” reason for wanting to view it.

“We decide to grant access on a case by case basis,” she added, admitting that there is no concrete set of minimum requirements for who is allowed access to the library’s sensitive material.

Since Bart warned the library they could be breaking the law, officials have reviewing their collection for issues of magazines which may contain child pornography.

“Everyone can make mistakes, even the National Library,” said Bengtzon, although she refused to elaborate on whether the mistake was allowing Bart access to the collection or some other shortcoming in the access restrictions.

“We welcome this test. It’s always good to review the restrictions we have in place,” she said, adding that the library began a comprehensive review of its access rules at the start of the year.

Despite the library’s restrictions, Bengtzon admitted they are by no means fool proof when asked whether or not paedophiles may have unwittingly been granted access to the library’s collection of child pornography.

“I can’t say that it has happened, but I can’t say that it hasn’t happened,” she said.

“But over all those years it’s certainly a possibility. I’d need to investigate further.”

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Business & Money
Profit leap for Swedbank
A branch of Swedbank in Malmö. Photo. TT

Profit leap for Swedbank

Swedbank has seen its profits rise higher than expected. READ  

New coalition
Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition
Stefan Löfven has changed his strategy on sick pay. Photo: TT

Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition

Small businesses won't face rising sick pay costs, following a policy reversal from Sweden's new coalition government. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'

The search for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago continues with "full strength" on Tuesday morning, according to Sweden's armed forces. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days
The Uppsala University Hospital. Photo: TT

Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days

UPDATED: A patient has been cleared of any Ebola suspicions at the Uppsala University Hospital. It marks the second suspected case in Sweden in two days. READ  

Analysis
Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters
The HMS Stockholm patrols Jungfrufjärden in the Stockholm archipelago on Monday morning. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters

With Sweden engaged in its biggest domestic military operation since the Cold War, The Local spoke to Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, to get insight into what’s going on in the Stockholm archipelago. READ  

My Swedish Career
US woman starts up Swedish toy store online
Leigh Neil and a llama hand puppet. Photo: Private

US woman starts up Swedish toy store online

For this week's My Swedish Career we meet Leigh Neil, who one day came to realize that there was a gap in the Swedish market for children's toys and decided to do something about it. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' search
No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch
A CB90-class fast assault craft at Kullbäling, a small island in Stockholm's archipelago. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch

The Netherlands on Monday denied a Russian claim that a mystery vessel the Swedish military has been looking for could be Dutch. READ  

Lufthansa Strike
Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike
Grounded Lufthansa planes. Photo: TT

Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike

A strike by pilots at German airline Lufthansa will affect over 20 flights in and out of Sweden over the next two days. READ  

National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Photo: Shutterstock

Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars

A dentist in western Sweden is offering free dental care to his town's Roma begging population. READ  

Business & Money
Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts
Photo: TT

Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts

Swedish electrical appliance maker Electrolux reported its third-quarter net profit soared 42 percent to 933 million kronor ($130 million) thanks to a cost-cutting programme started at the end of last year. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

994
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN