Porn addiction hits Zimbabwe

HARARE – Pornography is consuming a big chunk of Zimbabwe’s Internet data, which could point to addiction to eroticism on the part of users.

It was revealed at the Zimbabwe Internet Governance Forum (ZIGF) conference held in Harare on October 8, that the distribution and circulation of pornography in the country mostly involves young people and this might be a sure sign of the addiction, of some, to pornography.

With the rising popularity of free over-the-top communications applications such as WhatsApp and the escalation of media technologies, pornography circulation and viewership has heightened in private spaces where anyone can access pornography anywhere, at any time.

Pornography is illegal in Zimbabwe.

Possession of pornographic material is outlawed under section 13 of the Censorship and Entertainments Control Act.

The law forbids importing, printing, publishing, manufacturing, displaying, selling, offering, keeping for sale any publication, picture or record or playing pornographic material in public.

In a heated discussion on pornography viewing at the ZIGF conference, one lawyer asserted that there is a thin line between that which is moral and that which is legal.

“There are a number of statutes that illegalise porn, and distributing pornographic material is also illegal according to the Censorship Act,” the lawyer said, responding to a question on pornography.

One digital rights advocate, who refused to be named, said the rampant increase on pornography viewership may also be a wake-up call for Zimbabwe to legalise pornography.

“Maybe the high number of people accessing pornography in Zimbabwe is a sign that porn should be decriminalised locally,” the digital rights advocate said.

The Internet, which has become the backbone of a majority of services in Zimbabwe, has positively contributed immensely to the economy and furthered globalisation and communication.

However, freedom of access to the Internet has made pornographic material accessible and downloadable for everyone who is tech savvy, including teenagers who now have open access to the Internet even in school.

The ZIGF conference revealed that, quite a number of children have been prey to online criminals globally; hence more children in Zimbabwe have become vulnerable, even to paedophiles.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa, speaking at the ZIGF, said there is need for frameworks and laws that  protect the people and children online to be separated as children are the most vulnerable prey online.

Contacted for comment, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) said while it does not monitor the content that the public accessed, it has domesticated and adopted the Child Online Protection Guidelines developed by the International Telecommunication Union for use by children themselves.

“These are already available and being used to produce content for Child Online Protection by a number of organisations operating the field of child protection.

“The authority is currently working on domesticating the other sets of International Telecommunications Union guidelines for use by Parents and Guardians; Educators; and Policy makers,” Potraz said.

A number of restrictions on pornographic materials have been placed by the likes of Facebook to try and contain its movement and dissemination, however, the majority of pornographic viewers have adopted mobile platforms like WhatsApp to watch, receive and circulate pornography at ease, hence it remains a private affair.

The online pornography sector is believed to be worth around US$15 billion, with youths said to make part of the larger percentage of consumers.

However, studies in 2014 by the Cambridge University found that pornography triggers the brain of sex addicts the same way drugs trigger drug addicts, leading to unstable behaviour.

Religious leaders have also shunned pornography and have quantified it to immorality in the society.