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Swedish library retracts defence of 'child porn'

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Vintage books. File photo: Shutterstock.
10:05 CET+01:00
Graphic illustrations of child molestation in a vintage book have landed librarians in southern Sweden in a spot of trouble with police, despite claims it was not their job to "clean up history".

A book meant to counteract pornography that glorifies violence has brought a library in Växjo to the attention of the National Bureau of Investigation's (Rikskriminalpolisen) Child Pornography Task Force.

The TT news agency reported that sexual health organization RFSL had published the book "I last och lust" (a play on words on the Swedish words for vice and desire) in 1982 for educational purposes. It contains illustrations, including depictions of a child being molested, meant to show how sexuality has been depicted historically.

Two copies of the 265-page book have been available to borrow from the national library system, but police have reacted to its availability.

"It's rather inappropriate that children are allowed to be presented in this way in a book available to the public," task force chief Björn Sellström told Sveriges Radio (SR) on Monday.

Facing criticism, the head librarian in Växjö, southern Sweden, said she and her colleagues were not tasked with "cleaning up history".

"We cannot go back and clean up history just because we've come further in our discussions and values," Anna-Karin Axelsson told SR. "That's not what libraries are meant to do."

The library later retracted its statement and said the book would no longer be available for readers. 

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"The book is a debate book and the pictures surely have a purpose, but we shouldn't have lent it out. We were wrong," Axelsson said. 

She said the title should instead be kept for reference and research only. The second copy of the book is kept under lock and key at the National Library (Kungliga biblioteket) in Stockholm, where researchers are allowed access to it. 

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