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Article

The moral duty to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse

A paedophile is a person with a sexual attraction to children; some paedophiles commit child sex abuse offences. For such acts, they hold moral and legal responsibility, which presupposes that paedophiles are moral agents who can distinguish right from wrong and are capable of self-control. Like any other moral agents, paedophiles have moral duties. Some moral duties are universal, e.g., the duty not to steal. Whether there are any specific moral duties related to paedophilia is the topic of this paper. I argue that the moral duty not to commit child sex abuse is universal, and the duty to reduce the individual risk of child sex abuse is specific to paedophiles. I further argue that any society has a moral duty to help paedophiles reduce the risk. Both duties provide grounds for moral judgement. Paedophiles should be judged not for their sexual interest but for their efforts to avoid child sex abuse. If a paedophile has an opportunity to reduce the risk of child sex abuse, he is obliged to do so. Unfortunately, societies rarely provide such opportunities and hence fail in their moral duty to paedophiles and children.