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Porn should be banned on buses and trains to protect women, say MPs

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Sarah Shaffi
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The Women and Equalities Committee has recommended a ban on porn on public transport

“All passengers should be able to travel comfortably and safely without being subjected to the wholly inappropriate viewing of pornographic material.”

We’ve seen a lot of progress in recent years when it comes to UK law protecting women and girls and asserting our rights.

Coercive and controlling behaviour became an offence in 2015 under the Serious Crime Act. Last year Ireland overturned its ban on abortion after a referendum. And this year upskirting officially became a criminal offence.

But there is still a way to go, and the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee knows that. It’s just published a detailed response to a series of recommendations around preventing the sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces.

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Among the recommendations are a number concerning pornography. In response to a recommendation that the harms of pornography should be addressed as a public health concern in the same way issues like smoking are, the committee said: “We have already begun work to identify whether links exist between consuming pornography and attitudes to women and girls, and harmful behaviours.”

Research aims to build an understanding of the “relationships between pornography use and harmful attitudes and behaviours”, and will inform whether a campaign would be the best way to address this.

The report also recommends that bus and train operators take steps to prevent the viewing of porn on public transport. “All passengers should be able to travel comfortably and safely without being subjected to the wholly inappropriate viewing of pornographic material,” the committee said.

Train and station operators are being asked to commit to the Friendly WiFi Scheme, a government scheme which asks wifi providers to offer a standard of public service which filters for pornography and webpages known to host indecent images of children or adverts or links to that content.

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Bus companies can currently use a 1990 law to challenge inappropriate behaviour on buses, but the committee said it would “consider how the regulations might be amended to prevent the inappropriate use of electronic media”.

Among the other recommendations in the report is that a new law be introduced to criminalise the non-consensual creation and distribution of intimate sexual images. Although there are laws in existence which “capture” this behaviour – such as voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the revenge porn section of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 – the committee says the law should go further.

“There is no room for complacency and this government wants to ensure that there is no gap in the law on this issue,” says the committee. The Law Commission has been asked to review the law covering the taking and sharing of intimate non-consensual images, with a view to seeing if a new law can be formed.

The recommendations were originally published in autumn 2018 and this new report is a detailed response to those suggestions.

Image: Getty

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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