Count the cost of pornography

The Anti-Pornography Act 2014 received mixed reactions from Ugandans. Some said it was a waste of time; others were angry at such interference with their ‘freedom’. Generally, the vice has gained social acceptance and many view it simply as harmless fun. Nicholas Opolot and Francis Emukule take stock of the dangers of pornography and how it is ruining the lives of many.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the Internet and mainstream media are the major purveyors of pornography in Uganda. With just a click of the mouse or access to a cheap data bundle on one’s phone, many youth find themselves exposed to obscene and degrading material.

A study published in 2012 by Mfanufikile Ndhlala investigated students’ attitudes in relation to the effects of pornography in the University of Zululand, South Africa. The findings showed that 68.4 percent of respondents asserted that they had sex on a weekly basis due to arousal by pornography. Another 50.5 percent of respondents felt that pornography interferes with their academic performance.

A 2003 study by Rogala and Tyde on Women’s Health Issues found a linkage between men’s use of violent pornography and physical abuse of women. A wide range of studies conducted among young people aged 18 to 25 show consistently that exposure to pornography is related to male sexual aggression against women.

The above 2003 study, conducted by the Australian Institute in Canberra and entitled “Youth and Pornography in Australia: Evidence on the Exposure and likely Effects,” shows that exposure to sexually violent material was shown to have spiked acceptance of rape myths and eroded empathy for victims of violence.

Adults also showed an increase in behavioural aggression following exposure to pornography, including non-violent and often violent depictions of sexual activity, with stronger effects for violent pornography.

Further, the research said that pornography users in everyday life, especially men, were more likely than others to report that they would rape or sexually harass a woman if they knew they could get away with it. This proved they were more likely to actually perpetrate sexual intimidation and aggression.

In a 2001 study on American teens by V.B. Cline, 91 percent males and 82 percent of surveyed females said that they wanted to try some of the acts they viewed in pornographic videos. A further 31 percent males and 18 percent females admitted to trying out some of the sexual acts viewed in video within days of viewing the content.

“Exposure to pornography may increase children’s and young people’s own vulnerability to sexual abuse and exploitation. Some adult perpetrators use pornography as a deliberate strategy to undermine children’s abilities to avoid, resist, or escape sexual abuse. More generally, given that pornography encourages sexist and sexually objectifying attitudes among girls and women, it may increase their vulnerability to violence,” the study stated.

A research in the University of KwaZulu Natal research, found that senior students would invite unsuspecting students to their rooms to watch pornographic movies, making them vulnerable and easy targets of unplanned sexual activities.

A Ugandan problem

What started as leaked sex tapes in the late 2000s soon turned into social media followers and hysterical tabloids like the Red Pepper followed suit with nude photos and screaming headlines.

The effect of pornography on its viewers’ feelings, attitudes, and sexual behaviour is a cause for concern. In Uganda pornography is a punishable offence. If found liable, one pays a fine of  Shs100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding ten years, or both. This is provided for under Section 13 of the Anti-Pornography Act 2014.

This legislation goes ahead to prohibit production of pornographic material, broadcasting it, procuring and abetting its usage. Other prohibitions include: publishing, importing, exporting or selling any form of pornography, among others.

However, many critics of this law argue that it is not implemented and  that it is simply barking  toothless dog. Actually, due to limited sensitisation, some citizens recently mistook this law for an anti-miniskirt legislation.

Under Section 4 of the Act, the anti-pornography committee has been established to be the guardian of morality in Uganda. This committee is mandated to sensitize and educate the public about pornography. It  can arrest, prosecute, collect and destroy pornographic material, with the help of the police.

This committee is also expected to expedite development of acquisition and installation of effective computer software to detect and fight pornography. Some of the implied obligations within the meaning of Section 2 extend to the Internet service providers. These providers are expected to take extra caution not to give access to pornography sites. Further, the Internet content developers also ought to produce or upload content, which is within the required standards set by the pornography control committee.

It remains to be seen how far this law will protect both young and old from the adverse effects of pornography use in the country.

Joseph Musaalo, a counsellor at Uganda Christian University, reminds people with the addiction to  expose themselves to positive literature like Christian magazines, and stop the consumption of pornography. “They have do develop a discipline among themselves  to avoid  pornography,” he says.

He adds: “For people to avoid easy exposure to pornography, they should expose themselves to the effects it can bring to their lives so that they can know what can  befall them in case they indulge in consumption of pornography. No one wants a broken marriage or  to  have poor sex in his or her marriage. So they should  keep sober minds away from pornography.

“People who have this problem shouldn’t  not be shy to  come for counselling because we are here for them.”

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