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Ukraine slaps ban on all porn

Unless you're sick: Then it's OK

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Opinion Porn is now illegal in the Ukraine, unless used for medicinal purposes. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week signed off on new legislation joining the Ukraine to an ever-lengthening list of countries that have decided to move the censorship goalposts over the last few years, from publication of porn on to simple possession of it.

Ironically, the world may have a bizarre coalition of puritan New Labour and evangeligising Americans to thank for this giant leap forward for moral mankind.

On June 11, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) made possession of pornography – not extreme porn, but ANY porn – a criminal offence. It will be punishable by a fine of 850 hryvnia - which our currency converter helpfully reveals is approximately 69 British pounds - or up to three years in prison. As in the UK, this is a significant shift in the law, which previously only concerned itself with those who produced or distributed pornography.

The problem with this legislation is that the only available definition of porn comes from 2003 legislation, which states, according to the English language version of the Kyev Times:

"Pornography is vulgar, candid, cynical, obscene depiction of sexual acts, pursuing no other goal, the explicit demonstration of genitals, unethical elements of the sexual act, sexual perversions, realistic sketches that do not meet moral criteria and offend honour and dignity of the human by inciting low instincts."

It is not clear whether this is a literal translation of confused law – or an attack of "Babel-itis" on the part of that paper.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Ministry of Justice appears to have complicated the legislation even further by conceding that porn may be retained "for medicinal purposes".

So is this all homegrown? Or is there a wider agenda at work here? Is it mere co-incidence that highly moralistic legislation – on porn and prostitution, for instance - appears to be springing up simultaneously in widely differing countries?

Researchers in the field of sexual relations have complained for some time that the Bush era meant it was impossible to pursue any research – even in the UK - that failed to address issues in ways that aligned with the fairly narrow moral agenda of US neo-conservatives.

Back in the UK, in May 2004, Labour MP David Lepper boasted in parliament of how he and a number of fellow MP’s, concerned by the Graham Coutts case, had put forward a five-point plan to Ministers for controlling extreme porn. The five points were:

  • Persuading internet service providers, search engine companies and web hosting companies to block access to extreme porn
  • Criminalising the possession of extreme porn
  • Better international co-operation in dealing with extreme images on the internet
  • A souped up role for Ofcom
  • Requiring credit card companies to put a financial squeeze on the providers of extreme images

This plan was received favourably by then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who raised it in discussion with his counterparts in the United States. The same issues were then raised with countries in the G8 and Europe.

Whilst few countries have put in place all of the above measures, it almost certainly is no co-incidence that many have adopted several of them over the last few years, either following direct representation, or in an effort to curry favour with the West.

Ukrainian moralising may therefore be of a home grown variety, or it may just be the latest example of "me too" bandwagon-jumping. ®

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