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. “XX” classified material may not be distributed at all (not even between adults) in South Africa. 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 is applied to explicit/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 walls of a building that has been licenced as an “adult premises”. In other words, adult pornography may only be legally distributed to adults in these limited circumstances. All pornography that is currently freely accessible by internet users in South Africa, is therefore illegal.

Why the proposed amendments are highly problematic

The 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 to adults in South Africa. The Bill proposes replacing the abovementioned three prohibited materials with a single definition prohibiting only explicitly violent pornography. The unintended consequences will be that non-violent sexual material that nonetheless 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 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 the legalising of the 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 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 access (therefore quick, easily accessible, affordable, widely accessible and anonymous access) to not only hard-core pornography, but also degrading and dehumanising content as well.

Cause for Justice encourages each South African and each NGO to take part in the democratic process by engaging the NCOP 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


Subscribe to our newsletter!

Thank you for subscribing!


Share this on your social networks.