Row breaks out ahead of MEP vote on 'banning' pornography
MEPs will vote next week on a "ban on all forms of pornography", including censorship of the internet, in an attempt to "eliminate gender stereotypes" that demean women.
A row has broken out after libertarian Swedish MEPs spotted the call for a ban in the small print of a resolution "on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU" to be presented to the European Parliament on Tuesday.
While not legally binding, the vote could be the first step towards European legislation as the assembly increasingly flexes its political muscle.
The proposal "calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on discrimination against women in advertising . . . with a ban on all forms of pornography in the media".
However, Ireland South Labour MEP Phil Prendergast said she was opposed to "implementing laws that are going to violate people's right to privacy".
She said she would discuss the resolution with her Labour Party colleagues prior to the vote.
Calling for "common sense", she said: "What one person might call art, someone else might call filth."
She said that while she was opposed to gender stereotyping, if people wanted to share pictures on the internet of themselves as consenting adults, she didn't have a difficulty with that.
"It shouldn't make it an illegal act," she said, adding that her only concern was that children should not be able to view it.
Another Ireland South MEP, Fine Gael's Sean Kelly, said: "I'm totally supportive of gender equality and the need to advance women's rights."
Asked about the proposed ban on pornography, he said: "The less pornography the better. Obviously, pornography is not something you'd be encouraging."
Kartika Liotard, a Dutch feminist MEP, is seeking "statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism".
There is also a demand for the establishment of state sex censors with "a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting sexualisation of girls".
Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party which campaigns for internet freedom and has MEPs, said: "This horrendous attack on our fundamental freedoms of speech and expression needs action now.
"It is important to send a very clear message that this is unacceptable or it will become a legislative proposal which is much harder to fight."
The parliament has added insult to injury for civil liberty campaigners by blocking a flood of protest emails sent to MEPs as news of the vote emerged.
"This is an absolute disgrace," said Christian Engstrom, a Pirate Party MEP. "A parliament that views input from citizens as spam has very little democratic legitimacy."
The Icelandic government is considering the introduction of filters, such as those used to block China from the web, in order to stop people downloading or viewing pornography on the internet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)