U.K. Human Rights Panel 'Welcomes' Bill for 'Rape Porn'

Jun 12, 2014 12:15 PM PST

LONDON — Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights said in a report released Wednesday that it "welcomes" a new proposal that extends the possession of extreme pornography to include possession of porn depicting rape and other non-consensual sexual penetration.

With welcoming the bill carried over from the last session of Parliament, "the committee considers this provision to be human rights enhancing, given the evidence of cultural harm done by such pornography, and acknowledges the strong justification provided by the government and others for this proportionate restriction on individual rights."

The "rape porn" amendment, regardless of whether it looks realistic or unrealistic, states that an image would be illegal “if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way ... an act which involves the non-consensual penetration of a person’s vagina, anus or mouth by another with the other person’s penis.”

If convicted, defendants in the U.K. could face three-year sentences for being in possession of rape porn under the proposal that extends the 2008 law that criminalized the possession of extreme porn.

Myles Jackman, a U.K. attorney who specializes in obscenity cases, said the bill "will create a thought crime to censor and criminalize the consensual sexual fantasies of millions of adults in this country."

In an article written this week to be published in The Independent, Jackman said that the plan announced by Prime Minister David Cameron, along with other more draconian measures like ISP filtering, search engine and intelligence service surveillance and increased state regulation of the Internet, is "clearly a cover for state censorship and an internet surveillance land-grab on an unprecedented scale."

"The political hook deployed to justify this comprehensive intrusion into liberty was to protect women: as David Cameron claimed that rape pornography “normalize sexual violence against women," Jackman says. "Yet the Ministry of Justice criminal policy unit itself stated that: "we have no evidence to show that the creation of staged rape images involves any harm to the participants or causes harm to society at large."

Jerry Barnett of U.K.'s Sex & Censorship agreed with Jackman and said that the drive to criminalize rape porn has been an inevitability for some time, "cheered on by both the leading political parties."

"However, the endorsement of the bill by the Joint Committee on Human Rights is deeply disappointing," Barnett told XBIZ. "The committee states that there is evidence of cultural harm, yet no such evidence whatsoever has been presented.

"In fact, experts have expressed the view that there is no known harm caused by porn depicting non-consenting acts, and to the contrary there is evidence that such porn may create an outlet for people who may otherwise be violent. It's sad that possessing content which is legal across Europe and the U.S. may now result in a prison sentence for anyone possessing it: a longer sentence than that received by some actual rapists."

Jackman in his article noted that the intent to criminalize consensual sexual depictions, while also refusing to educate or engage in a positive debate about the value of consent, "suggests that British society has a significant distance to go in understanding consent."

"It is conceivable that expressing these issues in terms of cultural harm and 'rape culture,' may have cast the consent debate in an unduly negative light," he said. "Perhaps a more positive discussion might lead towards greater interest in the development of  'consent culture' projects and open up a new conversation about consent."

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