Britain will implement an updated set of classification guidelines in February when it comes to sexual violence following “changes in public attitudes”.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) notes that under the new guidelines, movies that contains scenes of rape or strong sexual violence will not be allowed a rating of 15, for viewers younger than 15 years old.

Under these new guidelines in Britain films for viewers younger than 15 years, the “depiction of the stronger forms of sexual violence, including rape, must not be detailed or prolonged” and “A strong and sustained focus on sexual threat is unacceptable.”

In South Africa, according to the Film and Publication Boards (FPB) classification guidelines, movies that contain scenes of sexual violence may not have the age rating of 13 years or younger.

Lynette Kamineth, communications and public education manager at FPB, says “The sexual violence (SV) tag warns the public of scenes of implied or actual sexual violence. This means any sexual activity or conduct that is accompanied by force or coercion, whether actual or threatened.”

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She says the sexual violence tag was included FPB guidelines in 2014 and aims to protect children and sensitive viewers from being exposed to scenes that could cause “disquiet or discomfort,” and to protect survivors of sexual violence from re-victimisation and secondary trauma.

The FPB says it also guards against gratuitous scenes of sexual violence.

“High consideration is given by FPB's independently contracted classifiers to gratuitous scenes of sexual violence in films and games.

“This means scenes of sexual violence that add nothing to the development of the plot, characters or themes and is used instead in a sensationalist way, has salacious intent or encourages rape fantasies in a society that already has a known problem with high instances of sexual violence,” says Lynette.

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Many conversations have happened around the use of sexual violence scenes on South African television, with viewers not happy about the use of rape scenes in TV series specifically.

Shouneez Martin, the registrar at the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), says they have not received complaints about sexually violent scenes in the past six months but such complaints are addressed under gender violence.

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“She says all complaints are judged within the context of the programme and if it’s a movie, broadcasters are allowed to broadcast what has been approved by the FPB.    

Shouneez says “the purpose of the Broadcasting Code is not to sanitise the airwaves, but rather to ensure a balance between the rights of broadcasters (freedom of expression) on the one hand and the rights of audiences (freedom of choice, not to be offended, etc.) on the other hand”. 

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“The BCCSA is not a censorship mechanism and we may only act after a programme is broadcast, if a complaint is received. Programmes are not discussed with the BCCSA beforehand,” she adds.

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