Letter: Canadian court links porn and violence

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: There has been much heart- searching over the effect of violent videos on child behaviour of late, but little is said about the impact of pornography on male behaviour where women and girls are concerned. Yet there is disturbing evidence that increasing numbers of sex attacks by those under 18 (including alarming levels of sexual harassment of schoolgirls by their classmates) are influenced by pornography.

The Canadian Supreme Court, in a recent landmark decision, has accepted the link between pornographic material and violence against women. In R v Butler (1992) it declared constitutional a criminal statute which outlawed violent or degrading sexual material. The court said that such material was, in effect, a kind of 'hate-speech' which jeopardised women's constitutional right to equality:

We cannot ignore the threat to equality resulting from exposure to audiences of certain types of violent and degrading material.

The court found it reasonable to presume that exposure to images bears a causal relationship to changes in attitudes and beliefs and agreed that material portraying women as a class of objects for sexual exploitation and abuse led to women's victimisation and degradation. It rejected the civil liberties argument that restriction was preferable to outright prohibition:

Once Parliament has reasonably concluded that certain acts are harmful to certain groups in society and to society in general it would be inconsistent, if not hypocritical, to argue that such acts could be committed in more restrictive conditions.

Yours sincerely,

BARBARA HEWSON

London, WC1

5 April

Comments