PROPOSED NEW LEGISLATION: Films and Publications Amendment Bill
The South African Parliament is currently considering a new Bill (the Films and Publications Amendment Bill), which amongst other things, proposes legalising and decriminalising online distribution of pornography to adult viewers/internet users.
The Bill was drafted by the Department of Communications (“DoC”). Cabinet approved the Bill in August 2015, whereupon the DoC introduced the Bill into Parliament (November 2015).
Apart from the proposed legalising of online pornography, the Bill contains certain commendable interventions, such as prohibiting and criminalising “revenge porn”, child pornography and depictions of sexual assault/violence against children. It also requires distributors of online pornography to put measures in place to ensure that children will not be able to access their content. There is however no indication what these measures will be.
THE CAUSE: What is the issue/problem?
Up to now, South African law has provided that adult content may only be legally distributed/broadcast and accessed/viewed inside a licensed adult premises, such as Adult World.
In response to the tabling of the Bill, the Portfolio Committee on Communications invited the public to submit comments on the Bill by 26 May 2016. Cause for Justice (“CFJ”) made submissions to Parliament on a number of troubling aspects of the Bill, with the main comments focusing on:
- Pornography (a specific type of adult content) violates the human dignity of the characters it depicts.
- There are various harms associated with exposure to all forms of adult content, not only for the adolescent viewer, but also the adult viewer, intimate partners of viewers, family relationships and vulnerable groups in society, such as victims of sexually violent crimes (mostly women and children).
- CFJ dealt with parts of the scientific research evidence on the harms of exposure to adult content in a blog. We encourage everyone to read it, to acquaint yourself with the harms you and your family are exposed to through others’ exposure to pornography.
FIGHTING THE FIGHT: What have we done and what do we intend to do?
From January 2013 up to March 2015, CFJ, together with two other organisations, fought and stopped the broadcasting of pornography on South African Television in the Starsat/ICASA matter.
This time round, we have answered the call to take part in the Parliamentary public participation process. CFJ has provided the Portfolio Committee with initial written submissions and will now focus our attention on the bulk of the task at hand, which will include (amongst others):
- Rallying the public, the media and other organisations to this cause
- Lobbying key role players and policymakers, predominantly within the political sphere
- Conducting further research or obtaining same from experts on the harms of pornography
- Participating in the public participation process going forward, whether before an official commission of inquiry, an ad-hoc committee or at the Portfolio Committee’s public hearings
You have a VOICE: What can you do?
Research shows that globally, 12 million hours a day are spent watching pornography on an adult-video site. The average age of boys who view pornography for the first time is 11-13 years old.
As South Africa is a democracy, every person is not only a number, but has a voice. Your voice will make a difference!
We encourage all who support this cause to add your voice in any of the following ways:
- Spreading the word about this cause to others
- IF YOU ARE FEELING BRAVE: You can also submit your own comments/objections to the Portfolio Committee at: email@example.com
- IF YOU ARE FEELING REALLY BRAVE: Send us your story (first person account) of either your own exposure to pornography or of someone you know, and the effects it has had on you personally and/or on those around you (This could be done on an anonymous basis.)