"Birgitta, 6 years old, lesbian," reads the advertisement with a photograph of a little girl in a swimsuit and armbands, alongside some childish drawings. "Not all princesses choose a prince," it
adds. A campaign by a Swedish gay group to promote awareness that nonheterosexual orientation can start from an early age caused a backlash on Wednesday from a child protection group that said the sexual depiction of children could encourage pedophiles.
Stockholm Pride, a volunteer group that organizes the city's annual pride festival, launched the campaign on its Web site and plans to run ads in the mainstream and gay press. Pride's chairman, Anders Selin, stressed that all the children depicted are now adult gays, lesbians, or transsexuals between the ages of 24 and 40.
"We're not telling people that every youngster is homosexual but that it should be as respectable as being heterosexual," he said. Selin said he wanted to provoke debate about how adults' sexual orientation is influenced in childhood by "how our parents raise us and how we're influenced by toy shops, etc."
But conservative member of parliament Rosita Runegrund, who works for Ecpat, an international network of organizations that combat the sexual exploitation of children, objected to the fact that the campaign gives young children a sexual identity. "Pedophiles use the argument that children have a sexual identity," she said. "For me it was a shock to find the pictures on their Web site because Pride is
a respectful organization. There is a strong reaction from the public who don't understand these pictures. It's not necessary. Children must have their own experience, and it takes time for them to find their own sexual identity."
Selin, a 36-year-old youth worker who is featured in one of the ads (as "Anders, seven years old, gay"), said that "as soon as you talk about homosexuality and children, everyone starts yelling about pedophiles."