Decriminalization of pornography: how international organizations support the process

Why international organizations support the decriminalization of pornography

In 2023, the International Commission of Jurists, together with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), officially released the “March 8 Principles on Approaches to Criminal Law on based on human rights”.

Using the basic principles of criminal law and principles of human rights, they demonstrate that the criminalization of sex work is unfounded and violates human rights[1].


Exchanging sexual favors between consenting adults for money, goods or services, and communicating with another person, advertising an offer or sharing premises with another person for the purpose of exchanging sexual favors between consenting adults for money, goods or services, whether in a public or private place , cannot be criminalized in the absence of coercion, force, abuse of power or fraud.

Criminal law cannot prohibit the conduct of third parties who, directly or indirectly, for obtaining financial or material benefit, on fair terms – without coercion, use of force, abuse of power or fraud – facilitate, manage, organize, communicate with another person, advertise, provide information about, provide or rent premises for the exchange of sexual favors between consenting adults for money, goods or services”

Why is there growing support for the decriminalization of sex work, including porn?

In recent decades, there have been significant changes in public and legal opinion regarding the criminalization of sex work. Now more and more international organizations are speaking out in support of the decriminalization of sex work. Below are the positions of international organizations regarding the decriminalization of pornography.

Human Rights Watch notes that the main motivation for decriminalization is to protect sex workers and their ability to enjoy basic rights, such as the right to justice and medicine.[2] Research by this organization in various countries shows that the criminalization of sex work increases vulnerability to violence, including sexual. This problem also exists for people who create porn, and with the criminalization of their work, they have no possibility of legal protection in case of violence against them or violation of their labor and other rights.

Freedom Network USA is a human trafficking advocacy organization. Their position is that the criminalization of sex work harms both those who volunteer and the victims of human trafficking because they fear and avoid law enforcement.[3] With decriminalization, industry participants who know the industry much better than outsiders will be able to identify victims of human trafficking and contact law enforcement without fear.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the importance of medical interventions among sex workers to effectively combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Decriminalization of sex work is a necessary condition for this[4]. Thus, according to a study by the University of California, a quarter of porn actors suffer from sexually transmitted diseases [5]. Timely interventions can reduce this rate, but they are not possible if the industry is in the shadows.

The situation with the criminalization of pornography in Ukraine

Production, distribution, sale and storage of pornography for the purpose of distribution or sale are currently criminalized in Ukraine.

In 2022, a petition on the decriminalization of pornography received 25,000 votes, necessary for its consideration by the President. A coalition of public organizations called[6] to decriminalize pornography and later took part in the preparation[7] of the corresponding draft law (registered under number 9623).

Bill 9623 decriminalizes the production, distribution and sale of pornographic materials.

People’s deputies also registered an alternative bill 9623-1, developed allegedly for the purpose of decriminalizing pornography. Draft Law 9623-1 declares exemption from criminal responsibility for the distribution of pornography “for personal, other than selfish motives.” However, in fact, according to it, distribution will continue to be criminalized. In addition, this draft law strengthens[8] minimum and maximum liability, but does not solve the fundamental problems of the field.

BRDO calls for support for Bill 9623. Decriminalization will help fight human trafficking more effectively, ensure the rights and freedoms of market participants and reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. This initiative is in line with global opinion on the harms of criminalizing sex work and the production of pornography.


For reference: The term “sex work” primarily refers to prostitution, although sex work is not limited to it. It includes other types of activities, such as the production of pornography, striptease, phone sex, and others.

Most applications and the materials discussed above refer specifically to prostitution. At the same time, prostitution and the production of pornography have partly similar risks for people working in these industries: the use of the labor of victims of human trafficking, violence, stigmatization, etc. Therefore, the arguments for recognizing sex work as work in general are transposed to the case of decriminalization of pornography.


[2] – :~:text=How does decriminalizing sex work, protection, dignity, and equality .