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Parliament adopts law on “revenge porn”

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The federal parliament gave its approval yesterday to a bill making so-called “revenge porn” a criminal offence liable to a fine and/or a prison sentence.

The term refers to images of a sexual nature, diffused on the internet without permission, with the intention of attacking the victim. The bill appears as an amendment to the law on voyeurism.

The law covers the video recording of a person either naked or engaged in a sexual activity, published or distributed without the person’s consent. Importantly, the offence is still complete even if the victim consented to the activity portrayed, but not to the distribution of the images.

The provision is important because the offence gets its name from the fact that in most cases, it is carried out by an ex-partner to get revenge, using images that were not contested at the time.

The bill, proposed by Vanessa Matz (cdH) was passed almost unanimously, with only two abstentions from Vlaams Belang. But it had had a more troubled passage to its second reading. In the justice committee in March, its consideration led to difficult judicial-technical questions, and the vote had to wait for a second session of the committee before it could be passed to the plenary.

The law allows for a fine of between €200 and €15,000, as well as a possible prison sentence of between six months and five years. It also contains a provision allowing the images concerned to be removed from the web, and if that is not possible – if the website owner is outside of the jurisdiction of the Belgian courts, for example – for them to be made inaccessible by a Belgian ISP, on the order of a court or simply a public prosecutor.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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