Closing the rape porn loophole - better late than never

rape porn extreme pornography From the Guardian 22/07/13:

Every household in Britain connected to the internet will be obliged to declare whether they want to maintain access to online pornography, David Cameron will announce on Monday.

In the most dramatic step by the government to crack down on the "corroding" influence of pornography on childhood, the prime minister will say that all internet users will be contacted by their service providers and given an "unavoidable choice" on whether to use filters.

The prime minister will also announce that possession of "extreme pornography", which includes scenes of simulated rape, will be outlawed by the government. It is illegal to publish such pornography and illegal to possess it in Scotland but not in England and Wales.

I remember reading McGlynn and Rackley’s* article a few years ago which criticised the omission of rape from the ‘extreme pornography’ provisions under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

*See C. McGlynn, and E. Rackley, ‘Criminalising extreme pornography: a lost opportunity’, Crim. L.R. 2009, 4, 245-260.

As the authors highlight, the exclusion of rape represents not just a glaring omission on the part of the legislature, but an inexcusable deviation from the Government’s mission statement which set out rationale behind the provisions on extreme pornography in the first place.

[P]ornographic pro-rape websites, which are freely and easily accessible online, will [not] be covered by these measures. This is lamentable, not least because the “extensive availability of sites featuring violent rape” was within the initial purview of the Government. Although some “violent” rapes may be covered (what is “non-violent” rape?), if they involve weapons or result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals, this excludes many pornographic rape images.

While many of the “rapes” on pornographic rape websites may not be “real”, but staged, they nonetheless are often presented as real and certainly presented to valorise forced sex. Indeed, one deeply ironic aspect of the exclusion of pornographic rape websites from the scope of the CJIA is that the apparent evidence of a causal link between exposure to violent pornography and a propensity to commit acts of sexual violence (deployed by the Government) is based on research which invariably deploys images of rape as the basis for investigation.

Rape sites, such as those described above, should have been brought within the scope of these measures, whether or not the rape involves additional physical violence**, and their exclusion reveals the extent to which the Government has strayed from its initial ambition and lost sight of the harms to be addressed by these measures.

** My emphasis.

It’s a positive sign that the government has finally acknowledged the need to close this gaping lacuna; it’s just a pity it’s taken them 4 – 5 years to do so.

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