The Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO) shows disappointment on the new Bill 113 of 2015 which decriminalises pornography, promotes the opening of sex shops and the licencing of TV channels that transmit pornographic content.
In the wake of recent initiatives launched by the government to promote equality between women and men, this proposal is indeed a huge step backwards, works directly against gender equality, and is a far cry from the pledge of being a ‘feminist government’.
Whilst MCWO acknowledges that the general intention may be to decrease censorship in art, it strongly argues that this Bill which is being promoted under the guise of ‘civil rights’ violates human dignity and bodily integrity, and therefore works against women’s rights.
MCWO believes that pornography like prostitution, is yet another form of violence against women and in the majority of cases feeds into the system of exploitation of vulnerable women and young girls. Furthermore, the porn industry seeks to make profit from material that is targetted mainly for male consumers with lack of mutual pleasure and void of crucial concepts of mutual consent and respect between women and men.
Pornography may give out the message that sexual acts performed in porn are expected to be enjoyable to women when in fact many find them degrading, distasteful and painful especially when women and young girls are coerced to mimic these acts as if they are pleasureable when they are under pressure to engage in such activities.
Lorraine Spiteri, MCWO Chairperson claims that there are more important issues at stake which have wider implications on society. Pornography objectifies women, cuts up their bodies into sexual parts, conveys distorted images of sexual relationships and influences the attitudes and behaviours in relationships especially of young people.
According to the European Survey ESPAD France (2004) 80% of boys between 14 and 18 years old and 45% of girls watched a pornographic movie during the previous year with 75% of boys as young as 14 and 15 discovering pornography. Further studies show that States with higher circulation rates of pornographic materials have higher incidents of rape.
Furthermore, according to the UK Office of Children’s Commissioner (2013) ‘Young people’s exposure to pornography is linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex; stronger beliefs that women are sex objects; and less progressive gender role attitudes (e.g. male dominance and female submission). In fact, sexual violence against women, which also includes sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual gestures and touching, is increasingly being reported. Research has shown that media showing porn as well as violent imagery online and in music videos etc., together with a sexist culture nurtures the right environment for such abuse to happen and to be normalised in relationships.
This requires a shift in culture to ensure that such behaviours are confronted before they are formed. Therefore the MCWO urges Government to consider the damaging effects of pornography and the extent this proposed Bill will affect the wellbeing of our members of society, their dignity and the rights of both women and men. For this reason, MCWO calls on all female and male MP’s to reject any proposal like this Bill which undermines the dignity and rights of women and harms Maltese society in general.
The Confederation is an umbrella organisation that represents 13 local member organisations. The MCWO is a full member of the Brussels based European Women’s Lobby.