Only We Can Tackle Porn

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The Community Must Set the Standards

"Pornographic films have become nastier. It is no longer erotic material, Playboy glitz and glamour. There are very nasty scenes where women more often than not are drugged and made to undergo what really are unspeakable acts. When viewing one of these films, two Film and Publications Board (FPB) committee members left the room because what they saw made them retch," said Mr Iyavar Chetty, senior officer of the FPB, the statutory body responsible for classifying all the films distributed in South Africa, including porn. He stressed that unless we as the public complain to the FPB about it, porn will continue to be as widely distributed as it is.

Speaking at a Standing Together Opposing Pornography (S.T.O.P.) annual meeting earlier this year, he said that it's vital that the community gets more involved in fighting pornography. Without public input, the Board's response is limited. People need to complain to the Board in order to have a particular film classification or publication investigated. "We do not get enough support and few follow-ups. Unless people are prepared to set standards for themselves, children will get their sex education from Hollywood, and that is exactly what is happening."

He stressed that only the involvement of the public in the fight against porn could raise the standards used by the FPB. Unless people complain, the impression is given that the public is satisfied with what is being distributed or how movies are classified. The number and type of complaints the Board receives is regarded as a measure of the standards of the community. The Board is required to apply "generally accepted community standards". "Unless the public is prepared to take the matter of establishing the norms and standards it is going to be done by a Board that probably has no idea what the level or standard of tolerance of these materials."

Chetty said, "The Board will continue to make the mistakes it makes in not classifying in line with the level of tolerance of the community as long as the community does not complain... The only way to ensure that the Board's decisions reflects the values we want is by pointing out to the Board that these are our values and these are the values you should be using in classification… And we as the Board don't get enough of that."

What Can We Complain to the Board About?
Members of the public can complain about:
The age classifications given by the FPB to films. Chetty says, "We must say we don't accept this level of nudity or these sorts of sex scenes for children."
If you go to watch a movie of, for example, R12 rating and a trailer before the movie advertises a movie of a higher rating, you must complain to the FPB as this is illegal.

Magazines and books that carry material offensive to yourself or your community. These are not classified by the Board before distribution. 
Any form of imagery on the Internet or anywhere else showing children in sexual contexts.

He pointed out that video games are also a problem and can be complained about to the FPB. He said, "Games are very very violent, racist, sexist and they are pornographic. In adult shops pornographic interactive video games are sold. There are games where you score more points for killing women or for killing Jews… And these are games which are openly available to the public… The public should make a fuss to the Board that its guidelines are too lenient or too liberal."

Not only do complaints contribute to the Board's understanding of community standards, Mr Chetty promised that the board responds to every single complaint. He also indicated that many in government are concerned about the impact of pornography. Christian activists need to take advantage of this.

Some Problems with the current situation in South Africa

  • "With the exception of child pornography, there is no censorship in South Africa… Most people are surprised to realise that bestiality, for instance, is not prohibited," he said. "There is no prohibition of any type of material in South Africa, except child pornography." Even the worst material cannot be banned. It may not, however, be distributed legally.
  • There are no cuts or excisions made by the Board in movies. They are just given a higher age restriction, but are still available to be viewed by the public.
  • "While all films must be viewed and classified before distribution, there is no similar requirement as far as publications are concerned." He explained that, "A publication does not come before the board unless there is a complaint from a member of the public…" The problem then is that magazines and books are freely distributed without any type of regulation of pornographic material. It therefore is incumbent on the public to make complaints about this material. Mr Chetty pointed out that members of the public "complain when they talk to us in meetings, but we don't have enough follow up (where a specific complaint is made)." Another problem is that decent members of the public do not buy porn mags and therefore do not see the material that should be reported.

- The FPB does not have an enforcement arm. There are no inspectors, for example, to ensure that no children are taking out videos that are age classified. Fines cannot be imposed. We need to lobby the Minister of Home Affairs to rectify this.

- There are two different regulatory bodies for films and TV respectively, the Film and Publications Board and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. The latter however is a voluntary association of broadcasters and is appointed by the broadcasters themselves! There is absolutely no regulation of DSTV and some people are making pornographic TV channels from overseas available and there is so far no legislation to prevent or regulate this.

The Internet
The Internet promises so much, yet is such a threat when it comes to porn. Up to 30% of all Internet traffic is porn. Mr Chetty says, "Given the nature of the Internet, an increase in child pornography anywhere in the world, is an increase everywhere in the world… so you can't think, well it's not happening to that extent in South Africa." The Internet is also very difficult to police. One of the reasons is that porn on the Internet is a massive money-spinner. One couple made US $1.4 million in just one month on child porn. The industry does not want "hard prevention" that is policing and censorship. Instead we usually have to use what is termed soft prevention - "educating and creating awareness". Before we use the Internet and introduce it into our homes we need to know how to protect ourselves and our family from obscenity on the Net.

The Film and Publications Board is in the process of setting up a hotline to report child porn on the Internet. They are also going to launch a schools Internet safety project to alert teachers and pupils to the dangers. Please contact Home Affairs Deputy Minister to urge him to make more progress on these two vital projects.

Child Abuse Images
Pornography is progressive and addictive. As people become desensitised by the porn they see, they seek out more and more shocking material. It is therefore no surprise that child porn is becoming so vile and so prevalent. Mr Chetty described child porn as "very very nasty… There are pictures involving penetrative sex with two-month old babies. It's not just child abuse, it is child torture." There are "millions of images of abused children" on the Internet. One child porn ring, the Wonderland Club which was bust by the FBI and Scotland Yard, required prospective members to post 10 000 original images of child porn. That gives us an idea of how many of these images there are in circulation. As Chetty says, "…One of the sad things is that that image is there forever. It follows that poor child forever."

According to Mr Chetty, South African children are being used in the production of child pornography.

And a result of all this porn? Mr Chetty says, "We are certainly seeing an increase in violence against women and an alarming increase in violence against children… What are we doing to our children and what are we doing to stop what we are doing to our children? Children have a right to expect us to protect them and I don't think we are doing that… it is frightening what children are exposed to." Porn has entered the mainstream of our society and impacts all of our lives.

ACTION: 
To complain to the Film and Publications Board, 
Telephone: (021) 465 6518/465 6572, Fax: (021) 465 6511
Post: Private Bag X9069, Cape Town, 8000.

  • Lobby the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Charles Nqakula, about the lax pornography laws in South Africa or to urge him to implement the child porn hotline and schools Internet safety project urgently. 
    Telephone: (012) 314 8099, 
    Fax: (012) 323 3716
    Post: Private Bag X741, Pretoria, 0001.
  • Complain to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA about what's on TV at: 
    Telephone: (011) 325 5755, 
    Fax: (011) 325 5736,
    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Post: PO Box 412365, Craighall, 2024.
  • For more info about S.T.O.P. or to join their fight against porn, 
    Telephone (021) 715 3216 /712 3198,
    Fax: (021) 715 6707,
    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Post: PO Box 461, Bergvliet, 7864. They also recently started support groups for those struggling with porn addiction.

How can we arm ourselves and our families against it?
Watch out for Africa Christian Action's new book due to be published later this year. It is an update and expansion of Finding Freedom from The Pornography Plague. The original book had a tremendous impact ten years ago, leading to over 9000 stores that used to stock porn deciding to no longer do so.

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Ephesians 5:11

by Christine McCafferty

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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