SALRC Workshop - Sexual OffencesREVIEWING THE LAW ON PORNOGRAPHY AND CHILDREN
SALRC Project 107 on Sexual Offences:
Reviewing the Law on Pornography and Children ?
The South African Law Reform Commission (the SALRC) is investigating and reviewing the legislative framework (the different laws) that applies to children in respect of pornography and child sexual abuse material (CSAM). This important project forms part of SALRC’s larger task of re-considering all South African laws that apply to all sexual offences.
During April 2019, the SALRC released its Discussion Paper on Sexual Offences (Pornography and Children)(the Discussion Paper) for public comment. The SALRC also hosted a series of workshops across South Africa during June and July 2019. These important opportunities for public commentary and consultation allow us to make a direct and active contribution to actual content of South African legislation – and ultimately – to ensure that the law protects our children.
Cause for Justice (CFJ) delivered substantive written submissions to the SALRC. CFJ legal advisor and parliamentary liaison, Liesl Stander, and CFJ intern, Carli van Wyk, attended the workshop held on 19 June 2019 in Cape Town.
Several members of the SALRC – those forming part of the advisory committee on Project 107 – were present at the workshop. They briefed workshop attendees on certain pertinent aspects of the Discussion Paper and attendees had the opportunity to engage committee members directly with questions and concerns.
The Discussion Paper deals with various topics, including 1) access to or exposure of a child to pornography; 2) consensual self-generated child sexual abuse material of certain children (e.g. sexting); 3) child sexual abuse material (a more appropriate term than child pornography, as it better describes the real nature of the material); 4) grooming of a child and other sexual crimes associated with, or which are facilitated by pornography; and 5) investigatory, procedural and sentencing matters.
A section of the workshop was dedicated to “group work”. This allowed attendees to discuss and comment on the Discussion Paper’s proposals and recommendations in more detail, while committee members obtained valuable feedback.
A Constitutional Mandate:
The South African Constitution recognises that the best interest of a child is of paramount in every matter concerning the child. South African law must provide children with adequate protection from pornography.
Every opportunity to ensure that our laws (and policies) actually do what it is constitutionally mandated to do – protecting our children from harm and promoting their best interest – needs to be taken very seriously.
The law’s role in protecting children from pornography: Necessary and important Pornography has a devastating impact on society: It’s use is strongly correlated with, and is the cause of, a wide range of violent behaviours, including sexual violence. We cannot afford to ignore or underestimate the consequences of pornography use. It poses a real, imminent and direct threat to the sexual safety of our children.
A growing body of scientific research evidence proves that adult pornography use is:
- Addictive (with the addiction following a disturbingly typical regression of a growing desire for more deviant forms of pornography such as sexual violence, rape, bestiality and CSAM ); and
- A trigger to sexually abuse children (for some adults).
SALRC Project 107 is an important opportunity to review at current law and propose the necessary changes that will ensure that our children are protect from the devastating harms of pornography.
Selected Responses to the SALRC Discussion Paper:
The SALRC made several recommendations and proposals in its Discussion Paper. Overall, CFJ supports most of these, such as:
- Replacing the term “child pornography” with the more accurate term “child sexual abuse material” (CSAM) in all legislation, since CSAM is a better description of what the material actually is.
- Holding all role players and suppliers in the CSAM/pornography supply chain equally accountable for children’s exposure to, or exploitation in the creation of, such material.
- Requiring mandatory device-level protections, i.e. protective software that can be installed on any device that is able to connect to the internet, such as MeetIris.
- Requiring internet service providers’ strict compliance with anti-CSAM/pornography regulations, and enforcing sanctions for non-compliance.
In addition to supporting these proposals of the SALRC (above), CFJ proposes:
- That the impact of adult pornography use on children’s safety, is seriously considered.
- That all content, irrespective of content type (for e.g. films, games, publications, press media articles, advertisements, etc.) and the manner in, or platform via which, the content is provided (for e.g. print magazine or online blog, television broadcast or live-streaming via mobile device), is subject to the same content standards.
- Educating and equipping parents, teachers and family members/communities on the significant role they can and should play, in protecting children from, and equipping them to deal with, the realities of CSAM and pornography.
CFJ is serious about Educating and Equipping parents!
Our #ParentTalk on The Unspoken Epidemic of Children and Pornography programme helps to EMPOWER parents to PROTECT their children with many useful resources and to help you protect your child.
While we are supportive of most of the SALRC’s recommendations, we are concerned by the Discussion Paper’s characterising children as “sexual beings”. That children have a biological sex is a scientific fact. However, since the meaning of “sexual beings” – as used in the Discussion Paper – is unclear, it is open for abuse.
The expression is also reminiscent of terminology used by the controversial researcher Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey is known as the father of the sexual revolution. His controversial sex experiments and studies of paedophilic behaviour and findings (including on the sexuality of children) has since been exposed as fraudulent and harmful.
We have only highlighted some of our responses to the proposals and recommendations in the Discussion Paper. Our comprehensive and complete commentary is contained in our substantive written submissions.
The Way Forward :
The SALRC will consider all the written submissions it received from interested parties and stakeholders together with the feedback provided by the workshop participants. Once this process is completed, it will compile and publish its Report on Sexual Offences (Pornography and Children).
Meanwhile, CFJ will continue to raise awareness and seek out (and create) opportunities to actively engage law and policy makers to ensure that South African law protects children from actual and potentially harmful and disturbing materials and from pre-mature exposure to adult experiences.