A British law criminalizing the possession of "violent and extreme pornography" is expected to take effect next week. The bill, a response to the 2003 murder of Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst by a man who liked violent pornography, would ban simulated sexual violence as well as images of the real thing. The prohibited material includes images of "an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person's life"; "an act which results in or appears to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts, or genitals"; "an act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse"; or "a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal" (emphasis added). Critics worry that the definition is too broad and too vague and that the law will punish people for engaging in consensual activities that do not actually harm anyone. "If no sexual offense is being committed," one M.P. who opposed the bill told the BBC, "it seems very odd indeed that there should be an offense for having an image of something which was not an offense."
But the Justice Ministry insists that "pornographic material which depicts necrophilia, bestiality or violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals has no place in a modern society and should not be tolerated." The M.P. who led the fight for the bill in the House of Lords promises the government will target only images that are "grossly offensive and disgusting." Jane Longhurst's mother, who campaigned for the ban, has little patience with the critics:
Speaking from her home in Berkshire, Mrs. Longhurst acknowledges that libertarians see her as "a horrible killjoy." "I'm not. I do not approve of this stuff, but there is room for all sorts of different people. But anything which is going to cause damage to other people needs to be stopped."
To those who fear the legislation might criminalise people who use violent pornography as a harmless sex aid, she responds with a blunt "hard luck."
"There is no reason for this stuff. I can't see why people need to see it. People say what about our human rights but where are Jane's human rights?"
[Thanks to Daniel Reeves for the tip.]