Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russian officials finally define pornography and ban it online

It seems that Russian officials have finally learned to see the difference between erotica and pornography. A draft law “Restricting the Distribution of Erotic and Pornographic Products” gives the previously non-existent [in Russia] legal definition of pornography and limits the circulation of pornographic products.

The document, prepared by the Ministry for Culture and Mass Communications, defines pornography as a detailed naturalistic image, a verbal description or a demonstration of a sexual intercourse and genitals with a view to arouse sexual excitement of a human being.

Erotica was defined as “the demonstration of sexual relations between humans, which do not contain elements of pornography.” Educational and medical works, as well as works of scientific and artistic value are not to be classified as either erotic or pornographic products, the draft law says.

The document also put forward a suggestion to ban the sale of pornography with the participation of underage, deceased individuals and animals. The bill excludes violence, as well as state symbols and architectural monuments from pornography-containing products.

Any other kind of pornographic production would be available in specialized stores, the activities of which should be licensed.

As for mass media, the bill allows to broadcast erotic and pornographic programs from 1:00 till 5:00 a.m. All kinds of pornography will be excluded from the Russian Internet. The publication or a pornographic material may leads to the punishment of up to six years in prison. At present moment, pornography is legally allowed on the Russian Internet with the exception of child porn, which stipulates the punishment of up to eight years in prison.

The bill currently undergoes coordination at the government.

Experts say that the new law follows the example of foreign countries regulating the public access to pornography. The novelty is aimed to make the products of adult content less accessible for underage people.

On the other hand, the existence of the world wide web makes such efforts pointless. About 92 percent of online surfers search the web for adult materials.

In the United States, a 1969 Supreme Court decision which held that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes, STANLEY v. GEORGIA, 394 U.S. 557 (1969), caused Congress to fund and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint a commission to study pornography.

In 1970, the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography concluded that "there was insufficient evidence that exposure to explicit sexual materials played a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior." In general, with regard to adults, the Commission recommended that legislation "should not seek to interfere with the right of adults who wish to do so to read, obtain, or view explicit sexual materials." Regarding the view that these materials should be restricted for adults in order to protect young people from exposure to them, the Commission found that it is "inappropriate to adjust the level of adult communication to that considered suitable for children." The Supreme Court supported this view.

The most concerted opposition in the United Kingdom comes from the Mediawatch group. This group wishes to criminalise possession of pornography.

Possession of pornography has never been an offence in the UK (except for child pornography) but in 2006 the UK Government announced plans to criminalise possession of "extreme pornography" punishable by 3 years in jail. The ban is proposed because of the campaign by Liz Longhurst after the death of her daughter, Jane Longhurst. Graham Coutts was convicted of her murder (although the conviction was overturned in July 2006). The campaign blamed his actions on an addiction to extreme pornography. Coutts had viewed extreme, violent internet pornography, particularly strangulation fetish sites. Liz Longhurst's campaign was backed by some MPs. A 50,000-signature petition was collected against sites "promoting violence against women in the name of sexual gratification". The move is supported by anti-pornography groups Mediawatch and Mediamarch but resisted by umbrella group Backlash, who are supported by organizations representing the BDSM, civil rights and anti-censorship feminist communities. Many of those responding to the Government consultation, especially police organizations, felt that the proposal should go much further, and that tighter restriction on all pornography should be imposed. However, the majority of responses to the consultation said there should be no changes in the law.

The British government exerts a much greater degree of control over pornography than is common in other countries. Hardcore material was not legalised until 2000, almost 30 years after the United States and the rest of Europe. Filmed material still has to be certified by the British Board of Film Classification in order to be legally supplied. This makes the UK's media one of the most regulated liberal democracies.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov