ACDP urges MPs not to legalise online pornography

ACDP MP Cherollyn Dudley.

The ACDP has called on members of parliament to take action to protect women and children from sexual violence by blocking proposed legalisation of online pornography.

In a speech in the House of Assembly on Tuesday on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley noted that one of the aims of the bill was to “deciminalise the online distribution of adult content on all platforms including digital platforms”.

According to an ACDP media release Dudley said she had addressed the House on three occasions last year on “well researched and documented” social harms of adults viewing hardcore  pornography — especially to women and children. She had also brought this information to the attention of the Committee on Communications.

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“It is unthinkable that we as parliament are not prepared to debate or consider scientific facts available for the purpose of informing policy decisions like this one, that will place women and children at greater risk of becoming victims of sexual violence.

“The ACDP appeals to this house to correct this omission, do the responsible thing and send this legislation back to the committee to first do an in-depth investigation into the public health costs and social consequences of adults’ use of and exposure to pornography before legalising the mass online distribution of pornography in South Africa. In the United States, nine state legislatures acknowledge pornography as a public health crisis having multiple harmful public health and safety consequences,” she said.

The media release lists the following concerns that Dudley included in her speech in parliament:

– Pornography use is rife in South Africa. We are in the top 20 of all countries in the world. We are number 1 in the world for accessing pornography via smart phones.
– Gender-based, sexual violence is rife in South Africa. Mostly adult males abusing and violating women and children.
-Research or scientific evidence shows without a doubt that pornography use is a cause of gender-based, sexual violence.
– Having been alerted to the evidence, what does the Socio-economic Impact Assessment on the bill say about this issue: Nothing.
– Having been alerted to the evidence, what has the Portfolio Committee on Communications done about this issue: Nothing – as yet!

Commenting on research findings Dudley said it has been observed that the more men view media where women are treated as objects rather than as people, the more they thought that women really were merely things that existed to sexually please men. In addition, the more men think of women as objects, the more they also support violence against women.

After viewing more than 500 studies to determine whether consumption of pornography caused gender-based violence, Dr Max Waltman of Stockholm University concluded that the weight of the evidence is clear – that pornography causes gender-based violence, she said.

Research also found that men who believed more strongly in impersonal, promiscuous sex and were hostile toward women, were significantly more likely to commit sexual violence and sexually assault a woman if they frequently used pornography.

Dudley also raised the danger of watering down the proposed amendment to the definition of prohibited material which at present outlaws material that “violates or disrespects human dignity, is degrading of human beings, and incites or promotes the causing of harm to human beings.”

“The ACDP cannot support this bill, as it is not in the interest of justice or in the public interest and cannot be justified on constitutional grounds.

“Our proposal is to either leave the provisions in the Act untouched (i.e. no amendments) or redraft it to bring it in line with constitutional norms and values.

The Constitutional Court in De Reuck v Director of Public Prosecutions 2004 (1) SA 406 (CC) held that the limitation of pornography “does not implicate the core values of the right [to freedom of expression]” and that pornography is, “for the most part, expression of little value which is found on the periphery of the right”.

We submit that on a constitutional rights analysis, the limitation of distribution of pornography in order to protect and promote the constitutional value of human dignity and to protect vulnerable groups in society from harm would be reasonable and justifiable, as required by section 36 of the constitution,” she said.

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