SA looks to criminalise revenge porn

South African law as it stands treats victims of revenge porn as the criminal‚ says social media lawyer Emma Sadleir.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications commenced public hearings on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill on Tuesday.

The proposed bill could lead to revenge porn – the publishing of explicit images or video of a person without their consent – being criminalised in South Africa as it has been in several other countries abroad.

Sadleir presented her case‚ stating that an “epidemic of sexting” had evolved through unlimited access to international platforms online.

“As soon as you have a phone‚ you have access to these platforms and what we see now is that victims are over-documenting.

“Victims document everything they do‚ where they go‚ what they eat‚ what they wear.

“It has become a social norm for teenagers to send naked pictures to one another‚” said Sadleir.

But the Johannesburg media law consultant added that vulnerability of the victims of revenge porn also stemmed from individuals being hacked‚ phones and devices getting stolen and “honest mistakes”.

Making reference to a mother who recently mistakenly sent a risqué image — intended for her husband — to 17 people in a school hockey WhatsApp group‚ Sadleir said that there should be no age limit for the victim to submit criminal charges.

Sadleir provided numerous examples of emails that she had received from concerned parents and guardians whose children have become victims of such violations.

While nude photographs‚ videos and photoshopped images remain prevalent‚ Sadleir said that the law should not only apply when the “sexual parts” of a victim are exposed.

Sadleir and independent legal consultant Ben Winks proposed that the “non-consensual creation‚ possession‚ solicitation‚ publication or distribution of any image‚ however created‚ or any description of a person‚ real or stimulated‚ showing or describing the body or parts of the body‚ or such person‚ in a manner or in circumstances which‚ within the context‚ violate or offend the sexual integrity or dignity of the person‚ be regarded as an offence”.

“Illinois law (in the US) recognises victims can be deeply harmed by non-consensually distributed sexual images regardless of nudity‚” she said.

“For instance‚ it can apply when the victim is depicted performing oral sex or has been ejaculated upon‚ even if sexual parts are not visible‚” she said.

Advocate Pierre Smith will present a view on revenge porn from the National Prosecuting Authority’s later on Tuesday. – TMG Digital

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