A new discussion paper on sexual offences in South Africa that looks at reviewing the laws regarding online adult material has been published by The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC).

The document, nearing 500 pages long, details how easy it is to gain access to pornography in the country, how young children are exposed to and affected by this content, and what can be done to reduce the exposure.

The paper addresses current South African laws and gives recommendations for how they could be altered to better protect our younger generations from being exposed to sexual content with a focus on online and digital content.

A controversial proposal suggested in the document is the introduction of a new default setting on all devices that automatically blocks all adult content within South African internet domains.

This proposal aims to prevent underaged users from accessing such content while allowing older audiences to verify their age in some way in order to continue their search. However, the document states that continuing or bypassing the block when you’re not of age would then be considered a criminal offence.

“The Commission provisionally recommends that legislation should comprehensively criminalise all acts of exposing children to pornography and content not suitable for children, in whatever manner, including through advertisement and enticement or by making use of misleading techniques. The commission endorses the continued criminalisation of child sexual abuse material and its classification as illegal,” it said.

Under these proposed changes, any person, device manufacturer or internet provider who does any of the below mentioned deeds would be guilty of a criminal offence:

– Unlawfully and intentionally provides a child with, or allows a child to engage with, any form of technology or device, including a mobile phone, capable of accessing the internet, social media or other digital content, without ensuring that the default setting blocks access to child sexual abuse material or pornography;

– Uninstalls the default setting;

– Uninstalls the default setting blocking access to pornography without valid identification to prove that the requester is a user over the age of 18.

The Commission has announced it will publish a report containing its final recommendations and proposal for law reform by way of draft legislation, if needed.

Public response will be taken into consideration before the Commission arrives at its final recommendations, this final draft will then be submitted to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for his consideration.

You can view the paper here.

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