Decriminalisation of pornography: people’s deputies collect signatures for the bill

People’s deputy Yaroslav Zhelezniak sent a draft law designed to decriminalise the use of pornographic materials that do not constitute a public danger for the deputies to sign. As the author notes, all willing people’s deputies will be able to sign the bill within three days, after which it will be registered in the Parliament.

Why is this important?

Despite the absence of public danger, law enforcement agencies and courts of Ukraine continue to prosecute persons for pornography. More than 1,000 cases are opened every year, in particular, for content on onlyfans, from which taxes are paid in Ukraine. People can be held accountable for the content of their mobile phones and private messages.

Recently, the society was shaken by the story of a woman from Novi Sanzhary, who received a criminal sentence for sending her own masturbation videos in private correspondence. The court recognised the video as a pornographic product and imposed a fine of UAH 34,000, as well as confiscating the phone as an instrument of crime.

According to Zhelezniak, the draft law will protect citizens from abuses by law enforcement agencies and prosecution for actions widespread in private life.

What does the bill propose?

Abolish criminal liability for:

  1. importation, production, sale and distribution of pornographic materials (Article 301 of the Criminal Code);
  2. maintenance of places of debauchery and prostitution (Article 302 of the Criminal Code) – it is important that this article does not apply to prostitution and pimping, for which no changes are proposed.

At the same time, leave criminal responsibility for:

  • Obtaining access to child pornography, its acquisition, storage, importation, transportation or other movement, production, sale and distribution;
  • Sale of pornography to minors;
  • Production, distribution and sale of extreme pornography;
  • Distribution and sale of pornography without the consent of the person depicted in it (revenge-porn, deep-fake), as well as production of pornography without the knowledge of the person depicted in it;
  • Involvement in prostitution, pimping, human trafficking.

What is wrong with the current Ukrainian legislation in the field of pornography

Ukrainian society, at least according to statistics, does not consider watching pornography wrong or dangerous. This is evidenced by the following facts:

  • Ukraine belongs to the top 20 countries in terms of traffic consumption on Pornhub.
  • The platform onlyfans, which provides access to products of a pornographic nature, was one of the first foreign companies to pay a tax for the provision of electronic services in Ukraine.
  • Erotic content is used to collect donations for the defense purposes of Ukraine – more than 31 million hryvnias have already been collected.
  • In August 2022, a petition on the legalisation of porn and erotica in Ukraine received the necessary 25,000 votes for consideration.

However, the production and circulation of porn in Ukraine is currently completely prohibited. Accordingly, those citizens of Ukraine who create/send/store pornographic content are subject to criminal prosecution.

The current legislation of Ukraine regarding acts with pornography criminalises acts that do not involve public danger (such as the distribution of any pornographic items among adults). At the same time, there are no special prohibitions (regarding the distribution of pornographic items depicting violent acts, acts that threaten human life, or sexual acts committed by people with animals). The maximum penalty for violating the ban is imprisonment for seven years. The ban allows law enforcement officials to threaten criminal prosecution and demand bribes even from people who create material that is far from pornographic.

We believe that spending money and time resources of the law enforcement system during the war to find and punish people who do not pose any public danger is a waste.

How is pornography regulated in European countries?

In European countries, certain acts related to pornography, which contain public danger (involvement of children or animals, coercion, violence, etc.) are mostly criminalised. In general, at the EU level, the distribution of pornography has been decriminalised. In this matter, Ukraine follows the laws of the USSR and criminalises the distribution of pornographic materials, referring to the 100-year-old document – the International Convention on the Prevention of Circulation and Trade in Pornographic Publications, to which it is not a party. Apart from our country, this practice is used only by the countries of the former Soviet bloc: the Russian Federation, Belarus, Bulgaria and Lithuania, as well as the Vatican.

Public initiative for the decriminalisation of pornography

In October last year, BRDO together with a number of Ukrainian NGOs jointly advocated for the decriminalisation of the creation, import and distribution of pornographic products (except for images of violent acts, acts that threaten human life, and sexual acts with the participation of animals).

BRDO team participated in the development of the draft law. The initiative was supported by more than twenty public organisations, including the military, and more than 70 people who signed the corresponding appeal.

Finally, the decriminalisation of pornography will not affect the number or frequency of viewing pornographic materials, because porn is already viewed en masse and webcams are also en masse. Instead, a person who sends nudity or other pornographic materials, in particular in private correspondence, will be protected from prosecution by the police and from the threat of criminal liability.

Therefore, we call on people’s deputies to support the initiative and sign the draft law.