Media Release 30 March 2018
The Ministry of Health, in its submission to the Select Committee which is considering a 22,334-written petition calling on an expert panel to investigate the public health effects and societal harms of pornography, says that “the content of pornography has changed significantly over the last 20 years and has become more extreme, deviant and violent.”
It also acknowledges that “violence towards women and girls is depicted in 80% of online content. This has a variety of harmful impacts on children and young people’s sexual expectations, attitudes, and behaviour. European research showed an association between regular viewing of pornography and initiation of sexual violence.” However, the Ministry admits that it hasn’t undertaken any research in the area of pornography, but is supportive of the petition’s call.
The petition states: “That an expert panel be appointed to investigate the public health effects and societal harms of pornography to both children and adults, and to make policy recommendations to Parliament.”
“The response to our petition has been phenomenal, but indicative of the community concern over this issue. Society is starting to catch up with the science on the harms of pornography. It’s time we examined it and took appropriate action – and that will be the role of an independent expert panel. There has been an important national conversation around consent and ‘rape culture’. At the same time, there is increasing consumption and availability of online pornography and sexual violence. It’s time we connected the dots,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ who is sponsoring the petition.
The MoH also acknowledges eminent Australian gender and violence research Associate Professor Michael Flood who recently said, “[I]f we’re genuinely concerned about sexual harassment and abuse, whether at work or on campus or in school, then we have to address pornography. Pornography is a key influence on sexist and sexually objectifying attitudes and sexually coercive behaviour.”
A nationwide poll in April 2017 found high levels of concern around the effects of online pornography and its link to sexual violence, and the easy access that young people have to offensive material. It also found significant support for action from government and internet providers in terms of filtering and Opt-Out provisions.
“The research also is discovering the highly addictive nature of pornography – termed by some as ‘the new drug’. These studies all highlight the extent to which porn is not a private matter to be ignored by the government. It is a public health crisis which needs to be confronted.”
“If we want to tackle sexual violence, we must first admit the role that pornography plays and the harm that it does to attitudes and actions,” says Mr McCoskrie.