The pornography debate: historical reflections on the legalisation of pornography in South African communities
The 1996 Films and Publications Act marked a dramatic turnabout, if not a fundamental circumvolution, in South Africa's all too flagging contemporary history of freedom of speech. Brought about by an unprecedented wave of readily available sexually explicit material and apparent discrepancies between the new constitution and the censorship system that prevailed, its drafting took place amidst intense nationwide debate. The debate was dominated by the question of whether pornography ought to be legalised, or whether the strict censorship thereof should be sustained. This article will comment on basic differences between the historical contexts of the 1990s debate and previous debates. It also examines three main arguments that dominated the debate: Morality, harm and sexual hate speech, and creating an equilibrium. In each instance the relevant concluding findings of the Task Group, charged with drafting the abovementioned act, will be noted. The conclusion reflects on the character of the debate and its main shortcomings, as well as the overriding importance of sustained multidisciplinary research into the topic. Due to obvious constraints on space the article is an abridged historical review but is, nonetheless, indicative of the overriding sentiments and dominant features characterising the topic at hand.