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South Africa Criminalizes Revenge Porn

According to The South African, in October 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa signed multiple bills into law, including one that criminalizes revenge pornography in order to dismantle the rampant sharing of revenge pornography.

Revenge pornography is the sharing of explicit, naked photos or video footage of an individual without their permission, and it has spiked in the age of social media. The offender distributes the material via text message, social media, email, or even pornography websites, and does so with immoral intentions.

The Films and Publications Amendment Acts 11 of 2019 aim to also dismantle the spike in child pornography. If found guilty of the distribution of revenge pornography, the distributor can face up to a R300,000 fine and/or four years imprisonment.

If the victim can be identified in the photograph or video, the distributor faces the most severe consequence. If the victim is unidentifiable, the distributor faces a fine of R150,000 and/or up to two years of imprisonment.

The law specifically states that one can face jail time or fines for:

1. Knowingly distributing private sexual photographs or films without the prior consent of any individual featured

2. Sharing these types of photos publicly with the intention to cause harm or distress

3. Uploading private sexual photographs where the person can be clearly identified, or is named in any accompanying text

Despite positive intentions, some people, such as social media expert Emma Sadleir, believe the amendment may do more harm than progress. Confusion begins with the wording “not intended to be seen by others”, as it can be difficult to interpret.

If an individual sends an image to a recipient, they are technically intending it to be seen by others. Therefore, if said recipient distributes it without consent, one can argue that the initial sender did in fact intend for others to see the image.

The other part of the law which is difficult to understand is the wording “intending to do harm.” It could be argued by a perpetrator that harm was not the intended effect of distribution. The accused could argue in court that they had another intention in distributing the images.

The law then could potentially promote victim shaming and can be difficult for courts to decipher. Despite the potential confusion, President Ramaphosa has been working tirelessly to pass and implement the law, which many would say has been a long time coming.

In October 2019, American revenge porn laws were also analyzed by Business Insider. While 17 American states deem revenge porn a misdemeanor (less than a year in jail), other states deem revenge porn a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on specifics. Of these, 11 states deem revenge porn a felony (over a year in jail) and four states have no laws.

Many countries, including the USA, do not have federal laws regarding revenge porn. South Africa has followed the UK, New Zealand and Japan by criminalizing revenge porn nationwide.

Featured Image by GovernmentZA on Flickr

Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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