Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I want to speak to amendment No. 6 and in favour of the similar amendments, which attempt to fix a real problem with the Bill. I am eager to hear the Minister of State's response to this.
It is very welcome that this Bill is being progressed. It deals with what was until recently referred to as revenge porn. As Women's Aid pointed out, it is not revenge or porn but it is image-based sexual abuse. We know that for too long victims have had no legal recourse against this damaging form of abuse. It is thought to effect one-in-eight users of social media, 90% of them being women, with long-term psychological and personal consequences. Some 80% to 93% of victims suffer: significant emotional distress; feelings of isolation, anger, guilt, paranoia; deterioration in personal relationships; low self-esteem; depression; withdrawal; and even suicide. Those people, overwhelmingly women, who are effected by the abuse of the character that we are trying to address with this amendment, suffer the exact same consequences. The consequence of being part of an image which purports to be a person, with one's face superimposed on someone else's body, has the exact same effect.
The Government dragged its feet on this issue for years. This would not be happening today if it were not for the determined action of women's rights organisations and campaigns and the now almost 81,000 people who have signed Megan Sim's www.change.orgpetition. It is people power which has forced the establishment to act on this. I ask that the Government would accept one of these amendments to make sure that we deal with this issue when we are passing this Bill.