Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Pornography by region

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Pornography by region

The production and distribution of pornographic films are both activities that are lawful in many, but by no means all, countries so long as the pornography features performers aged above a certain age, usually eighteen years. Further restrictions are often placed on such material.



The Bahamian penal code prohibits the production and distribution of obscene publications. Many types of pornography are prohibited in the Bahamas, however law enforcement is relaxed and does't usually enforce the prohibition. Pornography is available on Bahamian cable television and in 2014 ZNS-TV broadcast a report on the establishment of a local pornography industry in the Bahamas.


The laws of Canada permit the sale of hardcore pornography to anyone over the age of eighteen. While persons below that age may have pornography in their possession, its sale to them is prohibited.

Most hardcore pornography is sold in adult stores or on adult websites. In some cities, pornography can only be sold at night.

Latin America

The countries of the region are mostly sexually conservative, due to the heavy influence of the Roman Catholic Church, but the viewing of pornography has been popularized by the Internet and bootlegged DVDs.


Pornography is highly restricted in Guyana. The distribution, possession, sale, and importation of pornographic magazines, DVDs, books, photographs, etc. or simply browsing for pornographic websites on the Internet can lead to a variety of punishments ranging from community service, a fine of up to 45,000 Guyana Dollars or up to 2 years imprisonment.


Pornography is legal in Jamaica for adults over 18. But age verifications for buying porn or any sex-related products are relatively lax. The Jamaican government is planning to block Internet child pornography.

United States

Pornography is not unlawful at the federal level, but is subject to the Miller test, which was developed in the 1973 case Miller v. California. It has three parts:

  • Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied. Local areas are permitted to develop their own laws on the issue, as long as they do not conflict with federal law.
  • Pornography is a large industry that involves major entertainment companies such as Time Warner, which offers pornography films through its cable channels and in-room movies in hotels. Pornography distribution changed radically during the 1980s, with VHS and cable television largely displacing X-rated theaters. VHS distribution, in turn, has been replaced by DVD and Internet distribution for niche markets. Pornography generates billions of dollars in sales in the United States alone. An estimated 211 new pornographic films are made every week in the United States.


    European hardcore pornography is dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private Media Group. Most European countries also have local pornography producers, from Portugal (Naturalvideo) to Romania (Floyd-Agency), all of which compete with larger, international organizations with varying levels of success.

    Many U.S.-based pornography websites distribute European pornography as a genre. These actresses (often advertised as "Eurobabes") may conform more to a look usually seen in U.S. actresses than European ones, although they may still be considered to look "more natural". European pornography typically de-emphasizes breast implants, among other aesthetic factors.


    Production and dissemination of pornography is banned. Breaking the law is punishable with up to four years in jail.


    In France, pornography is permitted, but hardcore pornography must not be sold to minors under the age of 18. Softcore porn is allowed for people 16 and over. Extremely violent or graphic pornography is considered X-rated, and so may be shown only in specific theaters, and may not be displayed to minors. Some pornography has a special VAT: a 33% tax is levied on X-rated movies, and a 50% excise is placed on pornographic online services. The ratings system has caused controversy; e.g., in 2000 the sexually explicit and violent Baise-moi was initially rated only as "restricted" by the French government. This classification was overturned by a Conseil d'État ruling in a lawsuit brought by associations supporting Christian and family values. Notice that some movies are forbidden to minors under 18, without the X rating, like Baise Moi, Ken Park or Saw 3, so that these movies can be viewed in theaters and not attract the value-added tax.


    German law is very strict about hardcore pornography, especially when compared to very liberal laws about softcore pornography, prostitution and sex shops. Supplying hardcore pornography to a person under 18 is an offense, and shops selling it must keep people under the age of 18 from entering their premises. If only a part of the shop is dedicated to pornography, it must be completely closed off from the rest of the premises. Alternatively, shops may choose not to display their goods or advertise that they sell them, in which case minors may be admitted. Websites hosting pornographic material within Germany must comply with very strict rules about verifying that viewers are over 18.

    Soft porn is less restricted, and may even be broadcast on TV at night. The age threshold is usually FSK-16. Note in contrast that many uncut action films or video games easily reach the FSK-18 rating.


    In Hungary, pornography is unlawful if sold or shown to children under 18 years of age. Displaying the genitals openly, as on the cover of a magazine, is not prohibited.


    In Iceland, pornography is illegal to be made or sold, but sold openly in forms such as DVDs and in print, without the law applied much. High fines were applied in 2001 and ten years earlier a fine was applied to the first manager of the first private TV-station (and the only case to present) in Iceland for showing the Danish "mainstream" Zodiac-films, I Tvillingernes tegn and I Tyrens tegn. (except for possession of abuse/depiction of children). In early 2013 there was a draft proposal by Ögmundur Jónasson, the Minister of the Interior, to extend the ban to online pornography to protect children from violent sexual imagery. The plan has been stalled since the change in government during the parliamentary election on April 27, 2013. Since then, there have been no changes to the relevant legislation, and no changes have been formally proposed.


    In Italy, it is illegal to distribute pictorial or video pornography to persons under the age of 18. Hardcore and softcore movies and magazines are available not only through sex shops, but also in normal video stores, newsstands, certain gas stations and vending machines.


    The legal status of pornography in Russia is uncertain. The law criminalizes only the 'illegal' production and selling of pornography (which implies that it sometimes can be legal), but two circumstances make enforcement of the law difficult: (1) the lack of a legal definition of pornography, and (2) no law defining when production or selling is permitted.


    Production, distribution, broadcasting (both audio and video), transportation, import and advertising of pornographic materials in Ukraine is forbidden by law.

    United Kingdom

    In England and Wales, the main legislation on pornographic materials is the Obscene Publications Act 1959, the Obscene Publications Act 1964, and the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981. Video-oriented depictions of hardcore material (with certain exceptions for works considered primarily 'artistic' rather than pornographic) were banned until 1999, when the removal of trade barriers with other European Union member states allowed for the relatively free movement of such goods for personal use. R18-rated videos are only available in licensed sex shops, but hardcore pornographic magazines are available in shops selling newspapers and magazines. In 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service unsuccessfully prosecuted a man under the Obscene Publications Act (the R v Walker trial) for a textual story on a pornography website involving Girls Aloud. Also that year, the Home Office introduced legislation to criminalize possession of what it has labelled extreme pornography; these laws are now contained in sections 63 to 68 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.


    The legal status of pornography differs from one country to another in Asia.


    By passing "Pornography Control Act, 2012" Bangladesh government has prohibited carrying, exchanging, using, selling, marketing, distributing, preserving, filming etc. of pornography (Sexually explicit materials, unless it has artistic and/or educational value). Penalties include a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and fines up to Tk.500,000/(USD 6,410). Most of the pornographic websites are blocked by the government.

    Hong Kong

    Hong Kong is the primary source of Chinese-language erotica.

    Pornographic films in Hong Kong are referred to as Category III films, after the territory's motion picture rating system. Category III films would generally be considered softcore by American and Japanese standards, often featuring more elaborate and comical plots than foreign equivalents. In the early 21st century many of the roles involving sex scenes are actually performed by Japanese actresses, with any dialogue dubbed into Chinese, rather than by Chinese women.

    Hardcore pornographic videos and films, in both physical and digital forms, can be legally sold in the territory.


    Pornography in China is illegal. In Google, Yahoo, YouTube and other websites (China), searches related to sex could not be searched.


    The sale and distribution of pornography in India is illegal. Viewing of pornography by an adult in private is not illegal. Child pornography is illegal in India.

    North Korea

    Production and distribution of pornography in the DPRK (North Korea) is illegal. It has been rumoured that an army officer has been executed for making and selling pornographic films.

    South Korea

    Pornographic websites, books, writings, films, magazines, photographs or other materials of a pornographic nature are illegal in South Korea, with laws strictly enforced. Distribution of pornographic objects will result in a fine or a two-year prison sentence. Since 2009, all pornographic websites are blocked by the South Korean government.


    Even though the legal status of pornography in Turkmenistan is unknown, a law, passed on January 1, 2015, banning citizens to access pornography on the Internet suggests that pornography is definitely illegal in Turkmenistan.


    In Australia, possession of pornographic material is permitted, but it is an offence to sell, exhibit or rent X-rated pornography material in all states of Australia except the Northern Territory and ACT. As the Australian constitution prohibits states from regulating interstate commerce, the law permits the purchase of pornography from stores in either Territory and also bringing it interstate. This means that the majority of Australian mail order operations for adult material operate from the ACT. Despite the offenses under state laws, stores selling X-rated material are abundant in major cities, advertising openly, as these laws are rarely enforced.

    Ratings for the X18+ category were tightened in 2000 to ban material featuring some fetishes or which appeared to include minors. In 2007 the Howard Government made the possession of RC and X18+ pornography an offence in some Aboriginal communities.

    New Zealand

    In New Zealand, pornography is generally treated in a liberal manner although the most extreme forms of pornography (such as child pornography, rape, incest and bestiality) are classified as objectionable material by the law. New Zealand law is permissive, and magazines and other print copy are sold openly at newsstands.

    Papua New Guinea

    The possession, import, export, and sale of pornography are all offenses. Control is strict. According to the government, all websites containing pornography, nudity or depictions of sex are blocked and the government has been blocking such sites since early 2009. Under the law, persons who possess, own, import, export, sell or exhibit pornography to the public are subject to arrest and trial and can face up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine up to 50,000 to 100,000 Papua New Guinean kina. In PNG, pornography is subject to legal restraints to publication on grounds of obscenity. Laws relating to pornography in Papua New Guinea are vague. The main legislation used in dealing with cases relating to pornographic nature refer back to the Chapter 262 Criminal Code of Papua New Guinea, Lukautim Pikinini Act 2009, Classification of Publication Censorship Act 1989 and the National ICT Act, 2009. Improper Use of ICT Services.


    The possession of "Indecent and obscene material such as pornographic books, magazines, films, videos, DVDs and software" is prohibited in Botswana. Possession or import of such material is illegal and punishable by a fine or up to 4 years imprisonment.


    The distribution of pornography is illegal in Egypt and its possession and import are offences. Unlike numerous African nations which have no laws against child pornography, Egypt blocks child pornography websites and dealing in child pornography carries a minimum sentence of five years and fines of US$29,000. In 2009 Egypt's Administrative Court ruled that internet pornography should be banned, describing it as “venomous and vile”. In 2012 the country’s Prosecutor General ordered government ministries to block the websites, and the Administrative Court repeated its order for the Cabinet to block pornographic websites in 2015. However, the cost of blocking large numbers of pornographic websites has prevented the full implementation of the court's ruling. Egypt has the highest viewing figures for pornography in the Middle East according to a survey of access to Pornhub.


    Pornography is illegal in Nigeria, however the regulation of Internet pornography is light. Nigeria has the highest number of Internet pornography viewers than any country in Africa.

    South Africa

    Pornography rated X18 is permitted by the law only if sold to persons over the age of 18 in registered stores. It is an offense to host a pornographic web site in South Africa because of the difficulty of age-verification and the requirement that pornography only be distributed from designated, licensed physical premises. It is also unlawful to visually represent bestiality (also rated XX), but not in text descriptions. Supplying violent pornography is an offence in any form, but the law allows the production of pornography that is not prohibited.

    Distribution of pornography is regulated by the Films and Publications Act of 1996 which is enforced by the Films and Publications Board.


    Pornography is prohibited in Sudan and the laws are strict. Pornographic websites are blocked by the government, pornography is largely inaccessible, and porn possession, production, distribution and sale can lead to fines, prison or corporal punishment.


    Pornographic DVDs have in the past been sold on the streets in Uganda. However, an Anti-Pornography Act (popularly known as the "Anti-Miniskirt Law") was signed into law in 2014 with the stated objectives of defining what constitutes the offence of pornography and establishing a Pornography Control Committee. The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the law and for taking measures to detect, prohibit, collect and destroy pornographic materials. The law broadly defines pornography as "any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual excitement". The law says that “a person shall not produce, traffic in, publish, broadcast, procure, import, export, sell or abet any form of pornography”. Breaches of the law are punishable with up to ten years in jail. Prior to the passing of the act there were a number of laws concerning aspects of pornography in Uganda, but this was the first law to create a specific offence of pornography. The law repeals and replaces Section 166 of the Penal Code Act, widening the legal interpretation of pornography and prohibiting it comprehensively. The law has been subject to challenge in the Constitutional Court on the basis of its vague wording and the broad powers of the committee. In 2015 Ugandan pop singer Jemimah Kansiime was charged under the law for appearing in a music video.


    Pornography by region Wikipedia

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