United Nations Official Calls for the Ban of All Pornography

GENEVA/NEW YORK—A new report submitted to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council last month calls for a ban on all forms of legal pornography and the adoption of age verification measures to prevent users from accessing it online. Throughout much of the report, pornography is referred to as a form of "prostitution facilitated by digital platforms."

Reem Alsalem, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, submitted a report in time for the 56th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) scheduled for June 18 to July 12, 2024. Covering the concerns of sexual violence against women and girls, Alsalem argues for the HRC to recommend that member states ban porn.
"The Special Rapporteur recommends that states ... adopt regulations that comprehensively target pornographic content and explicitly criminalize the possession, production, or hosting of material as they violate the right to life and dignity, and constitute torture or inhumane or degrading treatment; adopt international legislation to abolish [legal] pornography and its consumption; immediately remove sexual images of minors and digitally facilitated pornography that might be accessible in any way to minors; and enforce compliance throughout the industry," reads the report's conclusions and recommendations to member states. Note that HRC has 47 members who are elected by the UN General Assembly for three-year terms.
Alsalem's report then goes into detail, pending "abolition of pornography," to apply a "strict age verification system on all online pornography, rigorous moderation, labeling, and warning systems, and mandated filtering by internet service providers with options for adult opt-in; and sanction pornography and social media sites for hosting illegal pornographic sites."
Special Rapporteur Alsalem's recommendations were highlighted on X by Mike Stabile, director of public affairs for adult industry trade organization the Free Speech Coalition. "If your concept of 'human' rights excludes sex workers—particularly their right to speak for themselves—one can only conclude that you don't regard them as human," Stabile posted, pointing out in a thread of posts that Reem Alsalem has also called for outlawing sex work. Stabile added, "She calls the distinction between trafficking and sex work 'artificial.'"
Alsalem's comments and recommendations are inconsistent with other reports attributed to United Nations officials and agencies. A December 2023 paper published by the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls called for sex work to be decriminalized as a means to counter the scourge of sex and human trafficking.
The report argues, "Decriminalization would not jeopardize the protective functions of the State in relation to combating exploitation, as other criminal law provisions, including [anti-trafficking] laws, would be used in cases of violence, compulsion or exploitation. ... Sex workers should be guaranteed all human and labor rights, including in relation to occupational health and safety, to ensure safe and non-exploitative work environments. They should have social protection and equal access to the full range of social, economic, and health rights."
The working group report also cites sex worker's rights groups and human rights NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch supporting sex work decriminalization. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also announced support for sex work decriminalization.
Christine Stegling, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said in a press statement published on June 2, “To protect sex workers’ health, leaders need to accelerate action to tackle the stigma, discrimination, and violence that sex workers face. This will require decriminalization. The evidence is clear: punitive laws hurt sex workers and need to be removed."
To understand the scientific and sociological evidence cited in the report, AVN asked Dr. Nicole Prause, head of her research institution Liberos and University of California-Los Angeles bioinformatics programmer, whether Alsaelm was citing information that was peer-reviewed and accepted by others in academia and civil society
"The 'citations' they claim to support their factual claims are almost exclusively unpublished online blogs by religious and anti-porn lobbyist groups, many of which oppose LGBTQ+ persons' rights, deny LGBTQ+ existence, or advocate LGBTQ+ death," Dr. Prause told AVN.
"Many of these groups make their money by donations or lobbying funds to make their claims, which is why they do not appear in peer-reviewed science: they are not supported by data in most cases. The changes demanded have almost no likelihood of resulting in the desired outcomes, such as reducing violence against women," Prause explained.