THERE is growing discontent over moves to criminalise non-consensual distribution of sex tapes on social media and even in the mainstream media with some sections of the public questioning why the tapes are made in the first place.
This week pressure group, Katswe Sistahood, presented Parliament with a petition saying they were concerned by the growing use of explicit images and film footage meant to humiliate intimidate, dehumanise and degrade people’s lives in general and women’s lives and livelihoods in particular.
They implored the National Assembly to enact a law which prohibits the distribution of privately-captured sexually explicit material without the subjects’ consent.
Such a law, they argued would, seek to protect people from having their nude photos or videos leaked (usually by an ex) on the Internet or social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook where such material easily goes viral.
The emergence of the Internet, in particular social media, and the proliferation of smart phones with sophisticated photographic and film recording capabilities, had given rise to a new form of sexual victimisation, colloquially referred to as “revenge porn”.
Revenge pornography, which is synonymous with jilted or scorned lovers seeking retribution, has become so popular it is almost a normal practice. The more graphic it is, the most hits it will get on various social media platforms.
“Some of the images are taken in privacy and are shared between intimate partners while others are taken without the knowledge of one of the parties using laptops and phones,” Katswe Sistahood legal and advocacy officer Debra Mwase said.
She pointed out that this invasion of privacy had led to women losing their dignity and often times their livelihoods.
“Revenge pornography affects women and girls more than boys and men and has far more serious consequences for them,” she said.
However, as the debate rages, another section of society is now questioning the motive of making the sex tapes in the first place.
Washington Garwe, a preacher at Anointed Gospel Assemblies based in Harare’s Rugare suburb, said these were the end time signs.
“We recently held a youth conference in Epworth and I challenged young people to flee from this demonic practice,” he said.
The man of the cloth said the moral decay in society was the root cause with young people now defiling their bodies with pre-marital sex and adultery.
He said: “I have not seen any of these nonsensical tapes and pictures, but what I can tell you is that this issue can not be solved by setting up legislation. For what?”
Many celebrities have fallen prey to this new phenomenon and who can forget Zimbabwean Big Brother housemate Pokello Nare’s sleazy sex tape with musician Stunner. The leak marked a new era for the conservative society of Zimbabwe and the tape went viral overnight.
Although many said it launched Pokello into stardom with some even suggesting that it was a stunt aimed at garnering votes for the socialite who was still in the Big Brother house, it opened floodgates of a vice that Zimbabwe is still grappling with.
Former TV personality Tinopona Katsande was also a “victim” of infamous sex tapes and since then has been fronting campaigns to influence criminalisation of nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit material.
This week, along with Katswe Sistahood, she submitted that she had not found any joy with the police when she made a report after her ex-lover leaked their sex tape.
The leaked tape cost Tino her career and attracted a lot of negative publicity and malicious comments.
“I symphathise with the so-called victims, but they were willing actors and actresses. Sex is a sacred act between two people, period,” said Martha Guriro, a vendor from Graniteside.
Lawyer and founder of Culture Trust, Nqobile Munzara, said many young people were pressured into these experimental activities.
“Young people have higher expectations when they are in a relationship and want to feel wanted and accepted,” she said.
Munzara said people were now desensitised when it comes to values and posing nude was now a “normal” thing.
“There is competition among high school students on who is sexiest and you can imagine how this is determined,” Munzara said.
Meanwhile, as the social conversations rage on Acting Prosecutor-General (PG) Advocate Ray Goba has said current legislation is adequate to deal with the mischief.
He warned couples who recorded sex tapes, saying they could be prosecuted in terms of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act.
Deputy PG Florence Ziyambi advised that if any complainant was not satisfied with the response from the police, the PG’s Office was more than willing to address their concerns.
However, the Katswe Sistahood maintains that the current laws are inadequate.
“The Postal and Telecommunications Act (Chapter 12:05) was promulgated in 16 years ago in 2000 and the relevant section relating to sending obscene messages on the telephone (s88) has never been amended,” Mwase said.
Cyber-based crimes are also provided in chapter VIII of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) which was promulgated in 2004, but the relevant sections are yet to be amended.