Something wicked this way comes

8th June 2007 at 01:00
At last, the United Nations has acknowledged that rape is a weapon of war in the Darfur region of Sudan, where women and teenagers, some as young as 13, are being attacked and raped repeatedly. Look at your first year classes and weep.

Elsewhere, young women are stolen, forced, tricked and sold into sexual slavery - many still girls. We can't pretend to be innocent - of the 700,000 people trafficked in Europe last year, an estimated 4,000 were brought into Britain and forced to work in the sex trade here.

Pornography is easily accessible on the internet. There are so many hits on child porn sites that the police, who have thousands of names of punters visiting them, can't begin to prosecute. It only takes a sledgehammer and one mighty swing to stop them in their tracks, mind you. To destroy their computers, not smash a part of their anatomy, I hasten to add.

Pretending that someone is not doing any harm "just looking" is pretty sick. The kids who feature in them have the double hurt of the abuse being done and being filmed, then the humiliating knowledge that men are looking at them again and again and again. Maybe we need a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, if that's what it takes to stop the urge to watch such pain.

I don't think any woman feels good finding out that her partner is looking at any pornography, and I certainly objected to the ease with which my sons found it when they were way too young.

We don't want to believe the extent of the horrendous treatment of women.

We want to believe that it doesn't happen because the thought is just so revolting. It's like the Holocaust - too dreadful to comprehend, in spite of all the evidence at the time. No one could believe that something so wicked could be happening in the next town.

We need a zero tolerance approach here. When a little girl was stolen in Portugal, pound;2.5 million pounds was offered for her return. But we need to find ways of rescuing all children who are in danger. The first step is to recognise how many are involved and just how wicked humans can be. The second is to respond to pleas for humanitarian help, and send what we can to children's charities.

It's a way of saying thank you that our kids are safe.

Penny Ward teaches at Carnoustie High

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