April 17th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Broad approach needed to boat-people saga

DEFENCE: Unmanned aircraft needed to patrol our seas

CANBERRA OBSERVED: What is Tony Abbott on about?

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE I: Rudd and Abbott schemes will punish stay-home mums

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE II: Maternity leave and the mother wars

COVER STORY / POPULATION: The philosophical roots of 'Demographic Winter'

BUSHFIRES: Victoria changes tack on fuel-reduction burns

CLIMATE CHANGE: Criticism of 'Climategate' inquiries accelerates

UNITED NATIONS: UN body seeks 'universal human right' to abortion

CHINA: Stern Hu convicted in kangaroo court

OPINION: All in the mind: Asian strategy and Australian big talk

TRADE UNIONISM: The most dangerous man in Detroit?

PORNOGRAPHY: Call for restrictions on 'soft porn' magazines

AS THE WORLD TURNS: India launches world's largest school voucher program; Child 'spies' to snoop on teachers; Mothers and fathers disappear from UK birth certificates; Will America break up?

CINEMA: Portrait of Nelson Mandela - Invictus (rated PG)

BOOK REVIEW : THE RETREAT: Hitler's First Defeat, by Michael Jones

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Call for restrictions on 'soft porn' magazines

by a special correspondent

News Weekly, April 17, 2010
Leaders of a number of parents' and children's organisations have called on governments to remove "Restricted" publications from premises where they can be readily accessed by children, and confined to adults-only premises.

Publications are classified as restricted if they include:

• detailed descriptions of sexual activity involving consenting adults,

• stylised or realistic depictions of simulated or obscured sexual activity,

• depictions of frontal nudity,

• coarse language, and

• depictions and descriptions of use of illicit drugs.

However, they are frequently available from many newsagencies, convenience stores, service stations and supermarkets.

The joint letter was initiated by Julie Gale, director of Kids Free 2B Kids, and signed by over 30 prominent child welfare advocates including Melinda Tankard Reist, Noni Hazlehurst, Tim Costello (CEO, World Vision Australia), Dr Jue Tucci (CEO, Australian Childhood Foundation), Barbara Biggins (Australian Council on Children and the Media), Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, author and child psychologist, as well as Women's Forum Australia and Women's Action Alliance.

In a submission to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, they said they "are opposed to Restricted pornographic publications and material being sold where they can easily be seen and accessed by children. We call for the sale and display of Restricted publications to be limited to adults-only premises." (These publications include Playboy, Mayfair, Penthouse, Swank and Private magazines.)

The went on to say: "Further, we support a review of the Classification of Publications Guidelines, to determine whether there should be more stringent requirements for the display of the so-called 'lads' magazines such as People, The Picture, Zoo and Ralph etc."

The joint letter follows publicity given by high-profile former women's magazine editor, Mia Freedman, who was reported in the Weekend Australian (March 13-14, 2010) to have expressed deep concern about "the harmful effects on children of what feminists have dubbed 'hypersexual' or 'raunch' culture".

However, an examination of Ms Freedman's web site shows only a modest change in direction.

On her website, Mamamia.com.au, Freedman wrote, "While there are certainly aspects of pop culture that make me want to throw things, I'm reluctant to leap into bed with the anti-raunch movement or the anti-sexualisation brigade, let along lead their charge.

"And here's why. Lately, I've noticed that emotive labels like 'child sexualisation' are being used as a Trojan horse by extremely conservative or religious groups whose true intentions are to turn back the clock on all sorts of things."

The attempt to minimise the impact of TV, magazines and the internet on children is one of the principal concerns of Kids Free 2 B Kids, which defines sexualisation as exposing children to inappropriate sexual imagery in a bid to sell products and make profits.

The organisation says, "Children should be able to develop at their own pace, without undue pressure and influence from mass media marketing and advertising.

"Parents don't necessarily want to wrap their kids in cotton wool, but most do want to provide an environment in which children can develop to their full potential: that means maturing physically, psychologically and sexually at age appropriate stages.

"Recent international and Australian studies have highlighted the significant impact that the sexualisation of children in advertising and marketing campaigns is having on children's physical and psychological health. To make it worse, the sexualisation of kids in the media appears to be on the increase."

While the exposure to children of soft-core porn magazines is the immediate concern, Julie Gale is well aware of the breadth of the problem.

"Children are constantly being bombarded by sexual imagery. Examples are everywhere - billboards, the internet, music video clips, TV, magazines," she said.

"In the unregulated children's magazine arena, our kids are constantly being manipulated by messages such as - 'look sexy, buy lots, then you'll be popular and happy'.

"In Australia, the tween (8-12 years) market is worth around $10 billion per year. The driving force behind the tween market is not the welfare of our children. The aim of this game is to manipulate kids so companies can make more money.

"We parents play a key role in what we allow our children to see, watch and wear. However, our parenting is being undermined by the powerful forces of advertisers and marketers, who have multi-million dollar budgets and use sophisticated psychological techniques."

She said, "It is time for parents - in fact all adults - to take the initiative and decide what sorts of images we want our children to see. It is time for corporations to be held to account for the psychological and emotional harm that comes from sexualised advertising and marketing. It is time corporations listened to the experts who work with children and see the impacts."

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