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14.01.2010

Pornography: So what did the legislators criminalize?

   

If the news report apparently received from the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Kharkiv region regarding an arrest for possession of pornography is correct, then concern must be voiced not only over the senseless law passed several months ago, but over its seriously flawed interpretation.

The website www.golosua.com cites the above-mentioned report as saying that a 28-year-old has been detained after a DVD with a film of pornographic nature was removed. He had apparently obtained it from a 22-year-old at one of the local markets.

The investigators have initiated a criminal investigation over elements of the crime set out in Article 301 § 1 of the Criminal Code. Following amendments passed by the Verkhovna Rada in June, and unfortunately signed into law by the President, despite strong public objection, this article now also criminalizes possession of pornographic material for the purpose of sale or circulation

Parliamentarians attempted to justify this further encroachment of people’s freedom by saying that it was needed to fight child pornography.  The new amendment does indeed do this, if the pornography is for sale or circulation.  Thus while not fully protecting children, since possession of any child pornography is a clear crime, regardless of the person’s motives, and thus not fulfilling Ukraine’s international obligations, the legislators further restricted freedom.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s call for the President to apply his power of veto was ignored. Their appeal, signed by 219 artists and human rights activists, states clearly that the new law “unwarrantedly and disproportionately restricts freedom of expression, and intrudes into the individual’s inner freedom. It also fails to achieve the aim for which it was created, while posing a serious risk of abuse of this norm by law enforcement officers who could use it for corruption or blackmail

In response to considerable public opposition to the law, the Minister of Justice tried to water down the changes, asserting that “possession of pornography for private use is not a crime”  (cf. http://www.khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1249134719 )

Judging from the present news report, this would not seem to be the case, if the person has indeed been detained for possession, following purchase, of ONE porn film.

Halya Coynash

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