Combating spread of pornographic materials is a compelling desire

Most recently, the Ugandan government nominated a nine-member pornographic control committee with the mandate to prevent use or spread of pornographic materials and information.

Uganda’s Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo said “the government will spend Shs2billion each year to fund activities of the ad hoc team he inaugurated at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala. He further said “the team will operate a fully-fledged secretariat with support of technical staff and have the latitude to incorporate any subject specialists of interest, and they will acquire top-end gadgets to monitor and or intercept, downloading, watching, sharing and or transmission of electronic pornographic material. Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has been co-opted under the arrangement to handle media and cinema proprietors that broadcast such material”. This decision was prompted by increasing display, sale and circulation of pornographic images in the print and electronic media, escalating cases of drug abuse among youths, incest, teenage pregnancy and abortion, homosexuality and lesbianism and defilement.

The spread of pornographic materials can never be overlooked as a particular problem to Uganda. Though, in Rwanda, the law explicitly prohibits use and spread of pornographic materials and information, we still see such materials in some of the local tabloids as well as on the Internet, especially on social networking sites.

In my view, Uganda’s position on the issue at hand is worth emulating. Law enforcers ought to take a similar tough stance, by creating a committee of law enforcers, who would act as a watchdog, to monitor and report to relevant authorities to take administrative measures and, where necessary, judicial measures against anyone who publishes/posts these objectionable materials. Especially on the social media, where children can easily download and watch pornographic materials and information. Rwandan law unequivocally prohibits any such pornographic materials or illicit content.

Considering Article 7 of the law regulating media provides that ‘the media for children is particularly prohibited from acting as illustrations, story or opinion praising or promoting any malicious, indecent and delinquency acts that are likely to divert or demoralise them’. Then, Article 9 of the same law states that ‘Censorship of information is prohibited. However, the freedom of opinions and information shall not jeopardise the general public order and good morals, individual’s right to honour and reputation in the public eye and to the right to inviolability of a person’s private life and family; the freedom shall also be recognised if it is not detrimental to the protection of children’.

The current Rwandan Penal Code adds more weight on the prohibition where Article 230 says “any person who displays, sells, rents, disseminates or distributes pornographic pictures, objects, movies, photos, slides and other pornographic materials involving children shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of more than five (5) years to seven (7) years and a fine of five million (5,000,000) to twenty million (20,000,000) Rwandan francs”.

If no such tough enforcement measures taken against pornography is likely to erode our culture, degenerate our beliefs and attitudes, compromise the way of life and eventually moral decadence would take root in society.

The recent proliferation of the Internet technology has significantly changed the way adolescents, more especially, encounter and consume sexually explicit or objectionable materials. Nowadays, an adolescent could be confined to a personal computer attached to a telephone line, the internet is now available to laptops, mobile phones, video game consoles, and other electronic devices. Given the ubiquity of internet, one may assume that adolescents’ access to pornography via internet is unmatched by any other medium. Undoubtedly, the volume and range of sexual explicit content available on the Internet is indescribably alarming. Though the Internet is regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century, especially in terms of revolutionising way of life, it has opened up a Pandora’s box. In other words, relative to other media, the Internet is considered a highly sexualised environment.

When adolescents frequently access sexual behaviours from observing the behaviours depicted in sexually explicit materials they easily develop the tendency of putting in practice what they learn and see. Characteristically, adolescents believe sexually explicit materials might serve as source of knowledge but, at the same time, distorts their thinking of sexuality. These pornographic materials are available on-line and off-line everywhere. But the Internet has more indiscriminately allowed people of all ages to encounter, consume, create, and distribute sexually explicit content, and a growing body of data reveal these phenomena are increasingly common for adolescents worldwide. 

In as much as the Internet is present and prioritised in the lives of many youth, it should be regulated whatsoever. Because today the Internet can be accessed by a young child from the privacy of her bedroom at any time of the day or night. Therefore, there’s a compelling desire to adopt strict procedures for tackling illegal content on the Internet and some mechanisms for allowing end user control of what is accessed on the Internet. Though it may seem as enjoyment of freedom of expression, this freedom isn’t absolute in any case it contravenes compelling values, such good morals.

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