Sex for sale

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 December, 1997, 12:00am

Concern has been growing for some years over the spread of pornography in Hong Kong. Many newspaper hawkers stock garish comics and magazines, mostly Japanese, but also from a wide variety of sources and sometimes locally produced.

Even so, there is little comparison between these publications and the hard-core material available on the Internet. Newsgroups and Internet sites cater for sexual deviants of all types, as well as the simply curious. Images of sado-masochism, rape, bondage and sex involving children and animals are all readily available.

When a campaign was launched in Hong Kong against pornography in March, 6,000 obscene articles were seized within two months.

According to figures released by Mervyn Cheung Man-ping of the Obscene Articles Tribunal, police confiscated 196,521 items of illegal material from comics to VCDs and CD-ROMs this year.

The law provides for maximum fines of $800,000 and one year's imprisonment for repeat offenders. But a successful operator could cover that amount in under six months. So, not surprisingly, competition in the sleazy trade goes on growing to the extent where some shops complain that prices are coming down. Even police officers who are hardened by years of exposure to Hong Kong's seamier side say that they are often shocked and revolted by some of the material.

The debate as to whether pornography can change the behaviour of the viewer is a long-running one. But, certainly, many psychologists and researchers into the subject argue that people who constantly watch pornography can begin to accept the distorted values and abnormal behaviour that they witness. Of most concern is the effect that looking at such images can have on young people. In these days of ever-increasing information technology, the onus falls upon parents to be particularly vigilant in checking what material their children have access to.

But the responsibility lies elsewhere when purveyors of this nasty trade are prosecuted. The courts should be certain to impose fines which are a real deterrent, rather than a mild irritation, as is often the case.