PEOPLE intentionally distributing an intimate image of another person without their consent should be charged with a new offence of sexting, a Victorian parliamentary committee report has recommended.
Tabled on Wednesday, the report makes 14 recommendations.
The Law Reform Committee’s chairman, Clem Newton-Brown, said the current law contained an anomaly that targeted minors but let off adults for similar actions.
“Currently adults who send sexting pictures to others without the consent of the person in the picture are unlikely to have committed an offence,” Mr Newton-Brown said.
“Whereas minors who took or sent sexting messages of themselves or their peers produce, possess, or transmit child pornography under the law, and may suffer serious and lasting legal, social, and employment repercussions if they are charged”
The report also recommends that minors who can legally engage in sexual relations with one another should not be regarded as child pornographers if they took a photo or video of that activity.
However, if there is more than a two-year age difference between the minor depicted in an explicit image or recording and the person who possesses it, it should be treated as a child pornography offence.
University of Ballarat social media senior lecturer Elisa Backer welcomed the recommendations.
“It is also important that the recommendations included rolling out education programs into the problems associated with sexting,” Dr Backer said.
“Children can lack the ability to think through the consequences as a result of sexting.
“It is important to try to stop it happening from a multi-prong approach.”
Dr Backer said research undertaken by the Internet Watch Foundation found that 88 per cent of self-made sexual images and videos posted by young people ended up being copied and uploaded onto other websites, such as porn sites.
Women’s Health Grampians chief executive Patty Kinnersly said the distribution or posting of sexually explicit images without consent was a form of sexual harassment and abuse, regardless of the age of the persons involved.
“We welcome the recommendation that sexting education and media campaigns will shift focus from simply blaming victims, to the appropriateness of the behaviour of people who distribute intimate images or media without consent,” Ms Kinnersly said.
The Victorian government has six months to respond to the committee’s report.