Remember our previous blog about the push to criminalise ‘revenge porn’? Well, this matter ended up being referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee for inquiry. We filed a written submission and the committee is due to report back on 25 February 2016 (Ed: the committee has since reported back and you can read their findings online).
In this recent submission we restated our support for criminalising the behaviour of sharing sexually explicit images without a person or persons’ consent via all forms of telecommunications including SMS, email, websites and social media. This is important in creating a gender equitable, safe, inclusive and fair Australia for women and girls.
But we also stated our concerns with the term ‘revenge porn’. Our concern is that public discourse has predominantly focussed on the problem arising because of ‘naïve users’. The term ‘revenge porn’ supports this dialogue by suggesting the victim/survivor is to blame for taking a ‘pornographic’ image in the first place. It also implies that the victim/survivor actively engaged in the making of the image, which is often not the case. For example, we know that this form of violence can be done to ‘shame and humiliate the subject, or punish them for discontinuing the relationship’ by a current or ex-partner (Henry & Powell, 2015).
We recommended to federal government that the offence be named ‘sexual violence perpetrated on information and communication technologies’ and the subsequent acronym of ‘ICT sexual violence’. This positions the offence within a framework of gender-based violence, placing responsibility with the perpetrator of this form of cyber exploitation rather than with the victim/survivor in the image.
Women’s Health West supports this legislative change as an opportunity for the government to provide a clear moral compass of the values of our society and the severity and unacceptability of this form of harassment and violence against women (Salter, 2015). Developing a specific federal criminal law against ICT sexual violence will create greater visibility for this offence and support victims/survivors to have their individual rights and dignity protected.
Essentially this legislative change will be a positive step towards protecting women and girl’s basic human rights to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence and the right to privacy and bodily integrity.
For more detail and to follow the status of the inquiry as it unfolds click here.
Henry, N and Powell, A, 2015, ‘Beyond the ‘sext’: Technology-facilitated sexual violence and harassment against adult women’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 48(10) 104-118.
Salter, M & Crofts, T, 2015, forthcoming, Responding to revenge porn: Challenging online legal impunity. In Comella, L & Tarrant, S (Eds.) New views on pornography: Sexuality, politics and the law. Praeger Publisher: Westport.