Pornography laws by region
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The production and distribution of pornographic films are both activities that are lawful in many, but by no means all, countries so long as the pornography features performers aged above a certain age, usually eighteen years. Further restrictions are often placed on such material.
- 1 Table
- 2 Africa
- 3 Americas
- 4 Asia
- 5 Europe
- 6 Oceania
- 7 See also
- 8 References
|Australia||Illegal in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Queensland. Legal in Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory||Legal||Restricted|
|Bangladesh||Illegal||Illegal||Blocked||Up to 10 years in jail and 500 Thousand Taka fine|
|Belarus||Illegal||Legal||Uncertain||Up to four years in prison|
|Central African Republic||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain|
|People's Republic of China||Illegal||Restricted||Blocked||Uncertain|||
|Egypt||Illegal||Illegal||Blocked (not fully implemented)||Uncertain|||
|Republic of Congo||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain|
|Denmark||Legal||Legal||Legal||See: Pornography in Denmark|
|Israel (excluding Palestinian territories)||Legal||Legal||Legal|
|Kazakhstan||Illegal||Uncertain||Some sites blocked||Uncertain|
|Malaysia||Illegal||Illegal||Blocked||Up to 5 years in jail|||
|Maldives||Illegal||Illegal||Some sites blocked||See: Pornography in the Maldives|
|Netherlands (including all territories)||Legal||Legal||Legal|
|New Zealand (including all territories)||Legal||Legal||Legal|
|Nigeria||Illegal (but enforcement is light)||Uncertain||Legal||Uncertain|
|Norway (including all territories)||Legal||Legal||Legal|
|Papua New Guinea||Illegal||Illegal||Blocked||Up to 6 months' imprisonment and/or a fine up to 100,000 Papua New Guinean kina|
|Philippines||Illegal||Legal||Some sites blocked depending on ISP||Uncertain|
|Russia||Restricted||Legal||Some sites blocked||Uncertain|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain||Uncertain|
|Singapore||Illegal||Uncertain||Some sites blocked|||
|Uganda||Illegal||Illegal||Some sites blocked||Uncertain|||
|United Arab Emirates||Illegal||Illegal||Blocked||Uncertain|
|Venezuela||Legal||Legal||Some sites blocked||Uncertain|
|Vietnam||Illegal||May be punished||Uncertain|
The possession of "Indecent and obscene material such as pornographic books, magazines, films, videos, DVDs and software" is prohibited in Botswana. Possession or import of such material is illegal and punishable by a fine or up to 4 years' imprisonment.
In Egypt, it is illegal to distribute pornography. The possession and import of pornography are offences. Unlike numerous African nations which have no laws against child pornography, Egypt blocks child pornography websites and dealing in child pornography carries a minimum sentence of five years and fines of US$29,000. In 2009 Egypt's Administrative Court ruled that internet pornography should be banned, describing it as "venomous and vile". In 2012 the country's Prosecutor General ordered government ministries to block the websites, and the Administrative Court repeated its order for the Cabinet to block pornographic websites in 2015. However, the cost of blocking large numbers of pornographic websites has prevented the full implementation of the court's ruling. Egypt has the highest viewing figures for pornography in the Middle East according to a survey of access to Pornhub.
All forms of pornography are illegal in Ethiopia, and its production in the country is rare. The legal status of Internet pornography in Ethiopia is uncertain.
In 2004, Morocco introduced severe punishment for promoting pornography. Producing pornography of any kind is illegal in Morocco. However, pornographic websites are widely accessible in Morocco.
Nigeria has no national laws prohibiting pornography, although the public display of graphic sexual material is illegal in Lagos. The country has a small indigenous pornography industry which produces exclusively heterosexual pornography as homosexual activity in Nigeria is illegal. Some Muslim politicians in the national government have proposed a nationwide block on pornographic websites. There is significant piracy of pornography in Nigeria, with pirated pornographic DVDs being sold from roadside stalls in Lagos. Pornography is also sold in Nigerian sex shops and some pornographic magazines are produced in the country, often reproducing pictures from foreign magazines. The first officially acknowledged hardcore pornographic film produced in Nigeria was Better Lover Valentine Sex Party. It was not submitted to the National Film and Video Censors Board for classification and it was immediately banned on the grounds of obscenity and immorality. Internet pornography is widely viewed in Nigeria. In 2015 the monthly average for the number of searches for pornography was 135,000, and in December 2014 and 2015 the proportion of searches for pornography (relative to other searches) was higher in Nigeria than in the United States. In 2013 Nigeria ranked second globally for Internet searches for gay pornography.
Pornography rated X18 is permitted by the law only if sold to persons over the age of 18 in registered stores. It is an offense to host a pornographic web site in South Africa because of the difficulty of age-verification and the requirement that pornography only be distributed from designated, licensed physical premises. It is also unlawful to visually represent bestiality (also rated XX), but not in text descriptions. Supplying violent pornography is an offence in any form, but the law allows the production of pornography that is not prohibited.
Pornography is prohibited in Sudan and the laws are strict. Pornographic websites are blocked by the government, pornography is largely inaccessible, and porn possession, production, distribution and sale can lead to fines, prison or corporal punishment.
Pornographic DVDs have in the past been sold on the streets in Uganda. However, an Anti-Pornography Act (popularly known as the "Anti-Miniskirt Law") was signed into law in 2014 with the stated objectives of defining what constitutes the offence of pornography and establishing a Pornography Control Committee. The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the law and for taking measures to detect, prohibit, collect and destroy pornographic materials. The law broadly defines pornography as "any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement". The law says that "a person shall not produce, traffic in, publish, broadcast, procure, import, export, sell or abet any form of pornography". Breaches of the law are punishable with up to ten years in jail. Prior to the passing of the act there were a number of laws concerning aspects of pornography in Uganda, but this was the first law to create a specific offence of pornography. The law repeals and replaces Section 166 of the Penal Code Act, widening the legal interpretation of pornography and prohibiting it comprehensively. The law has been subject to challenge in the Constitutional Court on the basis of its vague wording and the broad powers of the committee.
In July 2018, the Ugandan government directed the country's ISPs to block 27 pornographic websites.
The Bahamian penal code prohibits the production and distribution of obscene publications. Many types of pornography are prohibited in the Bahamas; however, law enforcement is relaxed and does not usually enforce the prohibition. Pornography is available on Bahamian cable television and in 2014 ZNS-TV broadcast a report on the establishment of a local pornography industry in the Bahamas.
In Brazil, pornographic film actors must be 18 or older. Pornography which does not involve bestiality is legal when sold in public places. Depiction of sex with animals is legal. However, magazine and DVD covers that depict genitalia must not be visible to public view, and pornography can only be sold to people 18 or older.
The laws of Canada permit the sale of hardcore pornography to anyone over the age of eighteen. While persons below that age may have pornography in their possession, its sale to them is prohibited.
Pornography was illegal in Cuba during Fidel Castro's leadership of the country, but the laws were relaxed in the 2010s. However, many pornographic websites are still blocked in Cuba.
In Guyana, it is illegal to sell or possess pornography. Distribution, possession, sale, and importation of pornographic magazines, DVDs, books, photographs, etc. or simply browsing for pornographic websites on the Internet can lead to a variety of punishments ranging from community service, a fine of up to 45,000 Guyana dollars, up to 2 years in prison, or corporal punishment.
Pornography is legal in Jamaica for adults over 18, but age verifications for buying porn or any sex-related products are relatively lax. The Jamaican government is planning to block Internet child pornography.
In the United States, pornography is not unlawful at the federal level, but is subject to the Miller test, which was developed in the 1973 case Miller v. California. The Miller test was an effort to differentiate between pornography and 'obscenity.' It has three parts:
- Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
- Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,
- Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied. Local areas are permitted to develop their own laws on the issue, as long as they do not conflict with federal law.
By passing the "Pornography Control Act, 2012", the government of Bangladesh prohibited the carrying, exchanging, using, selling, marketing, distributing, preserving, filming etc. of pornography (sexually explicit materials, unless it has artistic and/or educational value). Penalties include a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines up to Tk.500,000/(US$6,410).
It is illegal to sell or distribute pornography in mainland China, but it is not illegal to own or to watch it. Google, Yahoo, YouTube and other websites do not allow users in China to perform searches related to sex. Pornographic material in mainland China comes from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or Japan.
Pornographic films in Hong Kong are referred to as Category III films, after the territory's motion picture rating system. Category III films would generally be considered softcore by American and Japanese standards, often featuring more elaborate and comical plots than foreign equivalents. In the early 21st century many of the roles involving sex scenes are actually performed by Japanese actresses, with any dialogue dubbed into Chinese, rather than by Chinese women.
Hardcore pornographic videos and films, in both physical and digital forms, can be legally sold in the territory.
- The selling and distribution of pornographic material is illegal in India under section 292
- The distribution, sale, or circulation of obscene materials and the selling of pornographic content to any person under age 20 years are illegal under section 293 and IT Act-67B.
- Child pornography is illegal and strictly prohibited across the country under section 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000
- The manufacturing, publishing and distribution of pornography is illegal in India under section 292, 293.
In July 2015 the Supreme Court of India refused to allow the blocking of pornographic websites and said that watching pornography indoors in the privacy of one's own home was not a crime. In August 2015 the Government of India issued an order to Indian ISPs to block at least 857 websites that it considered to be pornographic. In 2015 the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked internet service providers to take down 857 websites in a bid to control cyber crime, but after receiving criticism from the authorities it partially rescinded the ban. The ban from the government came after a lawyer filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that online pornography encourages sex crimes and rapes.
In October 2018 the government directed Internet service providers to block 827 websites that host pornographic content following an order by the Uttarakhand High Court. The court cited the rape of a 10th standard girl from Dehradun by four of her seniors. The four accused told police that they raped the girl after watching pornography on the Internet.
Pornography in Lebanon is illegal and is subject to several legal provisions, but it's considered legal to access pornographic websites for personal use only.
Nepali law identifies pornography as illegal. The sharing, distribution and broadcasting of pornographic content through any medium is prohibited. In 2010 it was reported that the Home Ministry had banned access to a list of websites including explicitly adult websites. In September 2018, concerns about violence against women led the Government of Nepal to announce its intention to ban online pornography. From 24 September, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) began to put a block on all websites providing pornographic content on the orders of the Nepal Government Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MOCIT). By 12 October more than 21,000 pornographic websites had been blocked.
Possession of pornography became widespread among elites during the late 1990s. Political and army elites are the most active consumers of pornography. Locally produced pornography initially appeared during the reign of Kim Jong-il. A typical North Korean-made pornographic film involves nude or scantily clad women dancing with music.
Importing pornography to North Korea is harshly punished. Pornography is sold openly on the China–North Korea border regardless of regulations. Despite attempts to curtail circulation of imported pornography, most of the pornography watched in North Korea is currently made abroad. A significant part of pornographic media in circulation consists of Chinese bootleg recordings of poor quality.
North Korea has ratified the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, there are currently no specific laws to combat child pornography.
Pornography is banned by the government in South Korea, with laws strictly enforced. The distribution, sale or display of obscene materials via the Internet can be punished with up to two years' imprisonment, although there is no penalty for watching or possessing Internet pornography. The exception is child pornography, the possession of which carries a maximum one-year prison sentence, and the maximum sentence for distributing, selling or displaying it for commercial purposes is ten years. Many foreign pornographic websites are blocked, and those found to be operating from within the country are shut down. The Korea Internet Safety Commission is responsible for instructing Internet service providers to block access to "pornography and nudity". Google Search in South Korea filters search results for around 700 terms considered by the government to be adult in nature unless the user demonstrates that they are aged over 19.
Pornography in Pakistan is illegal and is subject to several legal provisions. The Government has put a 100% ban on internet websites containing such material since November 2011. The list of banned pornographic websites is updated on an ongoing basis.
The Philippine penal code prohibits the production and distribution of obscene publications. Despite this, enforcement is lax. Some local productions of pornography are known to exist in the country.
As of January 14, 2017, several pornography sites, mostly mainstream ones such as Pornhub and XVideos, have been blocked in the Philippines as part of a government crackdown on child pornography. The Philippine government cites Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Law as legal justification for the blocks. The list of sites blocked vary depending on the internet service provider enforcing them.
Items considered pornographic by Saudi Arabian standards are forbidden in the country. Customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation of pornographic items into Saudi Arabia. Such items may be confiscated on arrival and the owner may be subject to a fine. Accessing pornographic websites can lead to imprisonment, fine, deportation or any other severe punishment by the government.
Pornography in Syria is illegal and is subject to several legal provisions. The Syrian government began blocking pornography sites in late 2017.
Even though the legal status of pornography in Turkmenistan is unknown, a law, passed on 1 January 2015, banning access to internet pornography suggests that pornography may be illegal in Turkmenistan.
Production, dissemination and assembly of pornography is banned, with laws strictly enforced. Breaking the law is punishable with up to four years in prison.
In France, pornography is overall permitted, but with distinctions:
- Hardcore pornography must not be sold to minors under the age of 18.
- Softcore porn is allowed for people 16 and over.
- Extremely violent or graphic pornography is considered X-rated, and so may be shown only in specific theaters, and may not be displayed to minors.
- Some pornography has a special VAT (value-added tax): a 33% tax is levied on X-rated movies, and a 50% excise is placed on pornographic online services.
The ratings system has caused controversy; e.g., in 2000 the sexually explicit and violent film Baise-moi was initially rated only as "restricted" by the French government. This classification was overturned by a Conseil d'État ruling in a lawsuit brought by associations supporting Christian and family values.
The constitution and law are very strict about hardcore pornography, especially when compared to very liberal laws about softcore pornography, prostitution and sex shops. Supplying hardcore pornography to people who are less than 18 years old is an offence, and shops selling it must keep people under the age of 18 from entering their premises. If only a part of the shop is dedicated to pornography, it must be completely closed off from the rest of the premises. Alternatively, shops may choose not to display their goods or advertise that they sell them, in which case minors may be admitted. Websites hosting pornographic material within Germany must comply with very strict rules about verifying that viewers are over 18.
Soft porn is less restricted, and may even be broadcast on TV at night. The age threshold is usually FSK-16. In contrast many uncut action films or video games easily reach the FSK-18 rating.
In Hungary, pornography is unlawful if sold or shown to children under 18 years of age. Displaying genitals openly, as on the cover of a magazine, is not prohibited.
The production or sale of pornography is prohibited in Iceland. Heavy fines were applied in 2001 and ten years earlier a fine was applied to the first manager of the first private TV station (and the only case to present) in Iceland for showing the Danish "mainstream" Zodiac-films, I Tvillingernes tegn and I Tyrens tegn. In early 2013 there was a draft proposal by Ögmundur Jónasson, the Minister of the Interior, to extend the ban to online pornography to protect children from violent sexual imagery. The plan has been stalled since the change in government during the parliamentary election on 27 April 2013. Since then, there have been no changes to the relevant legislation, and no changes have been formally proposed.
In Italy, it is illegal to distribute pictorial or video pornography to persons under the age of 18. However, persons over 18 years of age are permitted to view pornographic material.
According to Russian law, consumption of pornography is allowed though the production of it is not. The illegal production, distribution, and "public demonstration" of pornography is punishable by a 2- to 6-year prison term. Roskomnadzor, the Russian government's media overseer, has the power to order the blocking of pornographic websites. In 2015 the agency required the blocking of the Russian-language version of Pornhub and 10 other pornographic sites on the basis of a court ruling.
There is nevertheless some uncertainty concerning the legal status of pornography in Russia. The law criminalizes only the 'illegal' production and selling of pornography (which implies that it sometimes can be legal), but two circumstances make enforcement of the law difficult: (1) the lack of a legal definition of pornography, and (2) no law defining when production or selling is permitted.
Pornographic production, distribution, broadcasting (both audio and video), transportation, import and advertisement is forbidden by law in Ukraine.
In England and Wales, the main legislation on pornographic materials is the Obscene Publications Act 1959, the Obscene Publications Act 1964, and the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981. Video-oriented depictions of hardcore material (with certain exceptions for works considered primarily 'artistic' rather than pornographic) were banned until 1999, when the removal of trade barriers with other European Union member states allowed for the relatively free movement of such goods for personal use. R18-rated videos are only available in licensed sex shops, but hardcore pornographic magazines are available in shops selling newspapers and magazines. In 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service unsuccessfully prosecuted a man under the Obscene Publications Act (the R v Walker trial) for a textual story on a pornography website involving Girls Aloud. Also that year, the Home Office introduced legislation to criminalize possession of what it has labelled extreme pornography; these laws are now contained in sections 63 to 68 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
In Australia, it is legal to possess pornographic material, except child pornography. However, it is illegal to sell, exhibit or rent X-rated pornographic material in all states (Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Queensland) but it is legal to do so in the two territories (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory). As the Australian constitution prohibits states from regulating interstate commerce, it is permitted to purchase pornography in either territory and then bring it interstate. As a result, the majority of Australian mail-order operations for adult material operate from the ACT. Despite the offenses under state laws, stores selling X-rated material are abundant in major cities, advertising openly, as these laws are rarely enforced.
Ratings for the X18+ category were tightened in 2000 to ban material featuring some fetishes or which appeared to include minors. In 2007, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response introduced by the Howard Government made the possession of RC and X18+ pornography an offence in some Aboriginal communities.
In New Zealand, pornography is generally treated in a liberal manner and very little is banned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. However, the most extreme forms of pornography (such as child pornography, rape, incest and bestiality) are classified as objectionable material by the OFLC, effectively banning them.
Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea, the possession, import, export, and sale of pornography are all offenses. Control is strict. According to the government, all websites containing pornography, nudity or depictions of sex are blocked and the government has been blocking such sites since early 2009. Under the law, persons who possess, own, import, export, sell or exhibit pornography to the public are subject to arrest and trial and can face up to 6 months' imprisonment and/or a fine up to 50,000 to 100,000 Papua New Guinean kina. In PNG, pornography is subject to legal restraints to publication on grounds of obscenity. Laws relating to pornography in Papua New Guinea are vague. The main legislation used in dealing with cases relating to pornographic nature refer back to the Chapter 262 Criminal Code of Papua New Guinea, Lukautim Pikinini Act 2009, Classification of Publication Censorship Act 1989 and the National ICT Act, 2009. Improper Use of ICT Services.
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