Response to Age Verification Inquiry report overdue in face of sex abuse crisis in schools
In March 2020, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs’ Inquiry released its report on age verification for online wagering and pornography. Now over a year old, the report - Protecting the Age of Innocence- recommended a roadmap for an age verification system to help protect children from exposure to online porn.
Having contributed two submissions to this inquiry (see Collective Shout's here and MTR's here) and provided evidence at the committee’s hearings we welcome the recommendation in relation to proof-of-age protections. However, we do not understand why, one year later, the Federal Government has yet to respond. In addition, we have just received an advance copy of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence report which stated in its recommendations that the Committee also awaited the Government’s response to the earlier inquiry. (See our submission to that inquiry here.)
Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist was quoted in a piece in The Australian yesterday on the need for age verification, saying that "violent pornography depicting forced sex was desensitising young men to violence in relationships”. (For a collation of recent related commentary see here.)
Other countries have taken action to improve safeguards for children and youth from exposure to a growing online repository of increasingly violent content which depicts rape, torture and incest porn, child exploitation material, image based abuse and porn produced using human trafficking victims, while Australia now lags behind.
Recently, Canada proposed legislation to block children’s easy access to online porn. In France, online porn sites are days away from a government-set deadline to prove they have adequate age verification measures in place before facing fines and risk of shut-down. France’s age verification measures relate to new legislation passed in July 2020 which aims to combat domestic violence. Germany proposed similar measures late last year. (Germany and the Netherlands have both introduced age verification for online gambling - read more here.)
In October 2019 the UK abandoned its plans for age verification and instead intends to roll out its Online Harms bill, aimed at blocking access to online services (including porn sites and social media platforms) which fail to protect users, with fines of up to 10 percent of global turnover for corporates found in breach of the new laws.
We are in the midst of a renewed national discussion about redressing sexual assault, harrassment, coercion and abuse ofwomen and girls. This crisis has been brought to the foreby the experiences of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and former Kambala School student Chanel Contos (among others).
From the day we started 10 years ago, we have argued that you cannot stop male violence against women and girls without challenging porn and more broadly, porn culture, which normalises and eroticises this mistreatment. (See for example our recent Brief to the Canadian Parliament’s Ethics committee hearings on MindGeek/Pornhub.)
This problem is too big and too difficult for parents or teachers to have to address alone. We need barriers at source which help protect children from the predatory advances of the multi billion dollar global porn industry which has a vested interest in grooming them into a lifetime of porn consumption. As the age verification inquiry Committee said more than a year ago, age verification could help achieve this.
1. Contact Communications Minister Paul Fletcher ask why the Government has not responded to the Protecting the Age of Innocence report:
- Fill out online contact form here
- Email: [email protected]
- Post: PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
- Phone: Ministerial Office - (02) 6277 7480⎮Electorate Office - (02) 9465 3950
2. Contact your Federal Member to also ask the Communications Minister why the delay. You can find your Member or Senator here.
Let us know if you receive a response.