Duma takes another step toward criminalizing possession of child porn

Deputies at a meeting of the Russian State Duma. © Vladimir Fedorenko
The legislation committee of Russia’s lower house has recommended passing in the second reading a bill ordering up to four years in prison for possession of child pornography without intent of distribution.

The bill was drafted in mid-2012 by representatives of three Duma caucuses – the parliamentary majority United Russia and the opposition parties LDPR and Fair Russia. If passed, it would change the existing practice of punishment only for the distribution and advertising of pornographic materials involving children (this offense can carry from two to eight years behind bars).

The lawmakers preparing the bill for the second reading rewrote the definition of child pornography, as required by the Duma committee. The ban now covers all materials with pictures or descriptions of genitalia of underage persons or sexual relations involving such persons, with exceptions for materials that have recognized historical or cultural significance or those prepared for medical, scientific or educational purposes in accordance with the existing laws. The new draft also recognizes as child pornography any materials featuring adult actors posing as underage persons. The age of majority in Russia is 18.

The second reading into the bill is scheduled for mid-April and its sponsors hold that barring any major obstructions, the ban will come into force from January 1, 2017.

Activists advocate criminal charges for child porn possession

According to the report presented by members of Russia’s Public Chamber in late 2014, the lack of a precise definition of child pornography and working laws to counter it have caused a critical situation with the sexual exploitation of children in the country. The activists named the existence of the “personal use” loophole as one of the major obstructions law enforcers faced when fighting child porn dealers.

“Criminal responsibility for possession of pornography, especially if it depicts minors, is a necessary measure that reflects the community’s very urgent problem. Porn dealers and entire international cartels specializing in this business cannot emerge from nowhere. And no normal person would keep such materials,” Elena Sutormina, one of the authors of the report, said in comments with Izvestia daily.

In mid-2013, Aleksandr Romanovich MP (Fair Russia) told a parliamentary session that the number of Russian websites containing child porn had grown by almost a third in recent years. The amount of available pornographic materials featuring children had grown 25 times. On average, every such site attracts 30,000 visits every month, he said. Romanovich also noted that according to polls, almost every Russian citizen between 10 and 17 years old who regularly uses the internet had received indecent proposals from adult users at least once.