Edward Brongersma

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Edward Brongersma (born Haarlem, Netherlands, August 31, 1911; died Bloemendaal/Overveen, Netherlands, April 22, 1998) was a Dutch politician and doctor of law. He was for a number of years a member of the Dutch Eerste Kamer ("First Chamber" or Senate) for the Labour Party, and chairman of the Eerste Kamer's Judiciary Committee (1969–1977). He was primarily known as a supporter of sexual self-determination for children, including their sexual encounters with adults. Accordingly, he also fought discrimination against pedophiles. He campaigned for radical law reform in this regard.

Brongersma, the son of an ophthalmologist, graduated in law from the University of Amsterdam in 1935. From 1935 to 1937 he was associated with a law firm in Haarlem while working on his doctoral dissertation on the Portuguese constitution of 1933 and the corporatism of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who at that time was the country’s Prime Minister. In 1940 he received his doctor of law degree "cum laude" from the Catholic University of Nijmegen. His dissertation was published as a book, which was reprinted several times.

After World War II he quickly made a career for himself as a lawyer and politician as well as a prolific writer. He worked as an attorney in Amsterdam from 1940 to 1950, and between 1946 and 1950 he was on the editorial board of the Dutch journal for the legal profession, Nederlands Juristenblad. In 1946 he was elected to the Senate (upper house) of the Dutch Parliament for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). His term lasted from 1946 to 1950 and later he had a second term, from 1963 to 1977. During his first term he was a member for the Dutch Labour Party of the Provincial States of North Holland, and served on the town council of Heemstede.

His career was abruptly interrupted in 1950 when he was arrested for having sexual relations with a young male friend of his who was around 17 years old at the time (born in 1932 or 1933). At that time the Dutch age of consent for homosexual contacts was 21. Brongersma was convicted and spent 11 months in prison. This law was reformed in 1971, reducing the age of consent for homosexual contacts to 16, the same as for heterosexual contacts.

He subsequently continued his career in the 1950s as a journalist and writer. From 1953 to 1956 he was a member of the executive committee of the Dutch Labour Party in the Utrecht region. In 1956 he was recruited for a four-year term as director of community work in Haarlem. As a result of his conviction he had been disbarred in 1950, but he was re-admitted to the Dutch Bar in 1959. He resumed his legal practice in that year and continued to work as a lawyer until 1980.

From 1960 to 1967 he was a senior lecturer at the Criminological Institute of Utrecht University, where he worked very closely with W. Pompe, the well-known professor of law. In 1963, at the request of the Dutch Labour Party, he rejoined the Senate for a second term, which would last until his resignation in 1977. From 1969 to 1977 he was chairman and spokesman for the Permanent Committee for Justice of the Senate. For his distinguished political service, he was made a Companion in the Order of the Dutch Lion on 29 April 1975.

Brongersma was primarily known for his publications and his advocacy of more liberal sex laws, a subject in which he was keenly interested. His expertise allowed him to play a major role in 1971, as a member of the Senate, in abolishing Article 248a of the Dutch Criminal Code, the article under which he had been convicted in 1950. The age of consent for homosexual contacts was lowered from 21 to 16. He advocated lowering the age of consent even further and allowing young people greater freedom to enter into sexual relations.

In the course of his lifetime he collected a huge number of scientific and academic publications on these themes, consisting of a library and personal archives. In 1979 he donated them to a foundation bearing his name, the object of which as stated in its articles of association was "promoting scientific study and publications in the field of sexual relations between adults and young people". In 1992 the objective was broadened to "promoting research of the sexual-emotional health of children and young people". A great deal of commotion ensued following his death in 1998 when some of the visual material in his collections was seized. The images were deemed to be "child pornography". Legislation passed in 1996 made it an offence to possess such images.

After resigning from the Dutch Senate in 1977, Brongersma devoted himself completely to the objectives of his foundation. It was then that he wrote his magnum opus Loving Boys (published in two parts, 1987 and 1990), while continuing to expand his collections. After his death, his entire social-sexological collections, as well as his private archives, were placed in the International Institute for Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam (www.iisg.nl), without the visual material, which had been seized by the authorities. The executive board of the foundation continued its activities, changing its name in 2003 into "Fund for Scientific Research of Sexuality" (www.fondsseksualiteit.nl).

Brongersma died in 1998 by means of euthanasia, because he felt he had lived his life. His health failed and he grew lonely as his best friends died one by one. The social changes that had started in the 1980s, in response to the sexual revolution of the seventies, caused him to become dispirited. Initially his pleas to liberalise legislation on public morals and the rights of pedophiles had been positively received by some, both in the Netherlands and internationally. But gradually the social climate became less receptive to these ideas, even turning harsh and hostile. Following his euthanasia, discussion flared up in the Netherlands as to whether people who were weary of life should be allowed to end their lives with the aid of a physician.

Brongersma has a huge list of publications to his name, having authored some 1200 books and articles between 1930 and 1998 on a wide range of social and philosophical subjects, such as criminal law, constitutional law, criminology, philosophy, religion, sexology, legislation on public morals and literary topics. Able to read 10 West-European languages, he wrote books on the Civil War in Spain, Portugal and the Portuguese, penal law and social problems. Beginning with his years at the Criminological Institute, he wrote extensively in the area of sexology, especially on pornography, ephebophilia, pedophilia and the age of consent. His books on these subjects include: Das Verfehmte Geschlecht (Outlawed Sex) (in German, 1970), Sex en Straf (Sex and Punishment, 1972), Over pedofielen en kinderlokkers (On Pedophiles and Child Molesters, 1975). His last and most ambitious work was Loving Boys (two volumes, 1988-1990).

Brongersma's approach to pedophilia was solely as a male same-sex issue. He admitted several times that he knew little or nothing about adult male attraction towards pubescent or pre-pubescent girls, or about female pedophiles. This exclusively homosexual focus put Brongersma at odds with psychologist Frits Bernard, the other leading figure of the 1970s pedophile liberation movement in the Netherlands.

[edit] References ^ Edward Brongersma (1990). "Boy-Lovers and Their Influence on Boys: Distorted Research and Anecdotal Observations". Journal of Homosexuality 20 (1). ^ Theo Sandfort (1990). "Boy Relationships: Different Concepts for a Diversity of Phenomena". Journal of Homosexuality 20.

[edit] External links The Brongersma archive, "Burning the Library" http://www.fondsseksualiteit.nl/eng/

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