Legalising of degrading Online Pornography enters NCOP, Parliament closing in on a final decision.



SUBJECT: Legalising of degrading Online Pornography enters NCOP, Parliament closing in on a final decision

On 6 March 2018, the National Assembly adopted the Films and Publications Amendment Bill (the “Bill”). The Bill contains proposals that would not only legalise the distribution of the most vile forms of pornography and other degrading material, but also the online distribution of hardcore pornography to adults in South Africa. The legislation will next go before the National Council of Provinces (“NCOP”) to be debated), followed by a vote to decide whether the legislative proposals will be adopted or not..

Current state of the law

For the purposes of classification, the Films and Publications Act (the “Act”) deals with adult pornography in two ways.

Firstly, the “XX” classification describes so-called obscene material. All distribution of “XX” material is prohibited and may not be distributed at all (not even between adults). Current legislation therefore prohibits material that violates or disrespects human dignity, is degrading of human beings, and incites or promotes causing harm to human beings.

Secondly, the “X18″ classification applies to explicit and/or hard-core adult pornography that falls short of obscenity. The Act provides that “X18” material may only legally be distributed to and accessed by adults within the four walls of a building that has been licenced as an “adult premises”. In other words, adult pornography may only be distributed to adults in these limited circumstances. All pornography that is currently freely available on the internet, is therefore illegal.

Why the proposed amendments are a cause for great concern

The Films and Publications Amendment Bill proposes that the “XX” classification be watered down to only prohibit the distribution of pornography that contains explicit violence. This will result in more vile types of pornography and other degrading material becoming legally distributable between adults in South Africa. The Bill proposes to replace the three prohibited materials with a single definition prohibiting only violent pornography. The unintended consequences will be that non-violent sexual material that violates human dignity, all degrading material that does not contain an element of explicit violence; and material that incites or promotes harm being done to human beings, will become legally distributable in South Africa.

Cause for Justice opposes the watering down of the “XX” classification, as it constitutes a clear violation of human dignity and will create public safety risks in relation to people inciting others in society to harm themselves and/or others. It is not in the interest of justice or in the public interest and cannot be justified on constitutional grounds.

The Bill also proposes to legalise online distribution of “X18” pornography to adults in South Africa.

There exists well documented scientific research evidence of the extensive individual (physical and psychological), relational and public (health, safety and other social) harms of pornography, which should first be given proper consideration, before a decision is taken about wide-spread dissemination of hard-core pornography to adults in South Africa through the internet. One of the most concerning harms of pornography is the perpetration of sexual violence/abuse against children and women by adult men triggered into these criminal acts through exposure to pornography.

Gender-based and domestic sexual violence is rife in South Africa. It is mostly adult males who exploit, abuse and violate women and children. Scientific research evidence shows that pornography use is a cause of gender-based and/or sexual violence. The Bill proposes to give South African adults online (therefore quick and anonymous) access to not only hard-core pornography, but degrading and dehumanising obscene pornography as well.

Cause for Justice encourages each South African and each NGO to strengthen their resolve and take part in the democratic process in support of the protection and promotion of the constitutional value of human dignity and to protect children and women from sexual exploitation.


For further queries, contact CFJ at:


Tel: 083 235 1511


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