The European Union is about to vote on the “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU” proposal, and some people are worried about a few of its clauses—like the one that bans pornography. The proposal includes the following detail:
17. Calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism
The idea is that pornography degrades women. Catharine MacKinnon, a legal scholar, has said that porn makes life more dangerous for women in general, by promoting violence and discrimination against women.
But not everyone agrees with that idea. Here’s Slate on why porn isn’t inherently bad for women:
That’s unfortunate, because it reinforces the expectation that women can only ever be innocent bystanders to sexual material, never producers or consumers in their own right (banning all porn would mean negating the contributions of proudly feminist pornographers like Tristan Taormino, Nina Hartley, and Cindy Gallop). It glides over the experiences of female porn viewers (who have leveraged the Internet to find and distribute porn that appeals to them, even when it’s not marketed that way). It totally ignores the men who are “sexualized” in porn (if pornography discriminates against women, can we all keep watching gay porn?). And it curtails discussion about the challenges faced by some men in the industry (like Derrick Burts, who contracted HIV in 2010, and Erik Rhodes, who died from a heart attack at 30 after heavy steroid use).
The resolution is relatively vague on what exactly pornography is, and whether or not banning porn will do anything for women’s rights, the EU will have to deal with the notoriously difficult problem of enforcing this type of ban. Here’s CNET:
The wording suggests that while Internet service providers may not be forced to comply with the principles of the report, it could give these companies ‘policing rights’ over their customers, similar to the “six-strike” rule in the U.S. relating to online piracy.
Point 14 also suggests that any kind of sexual content on the Web, such as on open platforms like Twitter, could also be eventually ruled out.
Some see the ban as a shady move by politicians to get around another EU set of regulations. Christian Engstrom of the Swedish Pirate Party wrote this:
Many members of the parliament (including me) felt and feel that this kind of ”self-regulation” is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the article on information freedom in the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that everyone has the right to receive and impart information without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers, and that any restrictions to this right have to be prescribed by law and be necessary in a democratic society.
Others see banning pornography as an infringement on free speech. When Iceland proposed a similar ban a few months ago, a group of free speech advocates released an open letter to the country’s minister of the Interior, writing, among other things:
The group further expresses concerns that their efforts to eliminate censorship globally is being harmed by the unchecked nature of the discussion. The letter states that “by stating that Iceland is considering censoring pornographic material on the Internet for moral reasons, they are justifying rather than condemning the actions of totalitarian regimes.“
And it turns out that this EU ban isn’t all that new. Wired reports that the proposal has come around the block before. The chances of it passing this time are hard to know, they write:
The chances of such a resolution influencing or becoming a law are hard to pin down exactly. The current session of Parliament has, since 2009, voted on a whopping 602 such similar resolutions, only rejecting 67 of them (giving a 89 percent success rate). Of 287 bills put forward for a first reading, only two were rejected; three of the 30 bills subsequently put forward for a second reading were rejected. The EU’s websites are extremely obtuse, and tracking which parts of which resolutions make it into which bills is extremely difficult, but it’s clear that the Parliament proposes many more things than ever make it into law.
The EU votes tomorrow.
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