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A Legal Perspective on Revenge Porn in South Africa

Due to the increasing use of technology and the internet, people are more vulnerable than ever to various forms of abuse and violence. People experience a number of forms of technology-related violence such as the publication of non-consensual intimate images typically known as “revenge porn”, doxing, extortion, bullying, stalking, and sexual harassment. This is a form of cyberbullying and because of the negative stigma attached to it, victims rarely speak out about it. This leaves them feeling helpless and exposed and, in many cases, causes them to leave their school or job.

What is Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is seen as the of sharing private and usually sexual photographs or videos without the consent of the person in the photograph or victim. The intention herein is usually to humiliate and threaten the victim and is usually the action of a former partner or spouse.

Revenge porn in divorce cases is an increasing issue in family law. In most cases, women share their nude photographs and/or videos with the person they are in a relationship with and whom they trust and these photographs and/or videos get used against them when the relationship turns sour or in some cases when the woman leaves the relationship.

Social media and Revenge Pornography

Social media allows for the fast distribution of revenge porn, making it the most popular platform for sharing these types of photographs and/or videos without truly thinking about the consequences thereof.

Social media is the first source of revenge porn, which makes the threat more intimidating for the victim given the fact that her friends, family, or even colleagues might be connected with them on social media.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google have policies and procedures in place to remove such content, however, the reporting and investigation thereof can be a daunting and time-consuming task for the victim.

What can a victim of Revenge Pornography do?

The Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013

Section 99(1) of the Protection of Personal Information Act makes provision for victims of revenge porn to initiate a civil claim for damages against the responsible party whether or not the act was intentional or an act of negligence.

Film and Publication Amendment Act 11 of 2019

The Film and Publication Amendment Act came into effect in 2022 and now provides for the criminalization of revenge porn.  In terms of Section 18F of the Act, it is a criminal offense to distribute private sexual photographs and videos on any medium including the internet and social media, without the consent of the person in the photographs and videos, and where such distribution is done with the intention to cause the said individual harm.

Section 24E of the Act states that anyone who is charged and found guilty of distributing private sexual content in terms of Section 18F could face the following penalties:

  • Two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to R150 000, if the victim cannot be identified in the content; or 
  • Four years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to R300 000, if the victim is identified or identifiable in any way (including but not limited to their face, distinct voice and / or their personal information included in the content).

Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011

 The Protection from Harassment Act allows a victim to apply for a protection order against the responsible party. Read more about Protection Orders here.

Cyber Crimes Act 19 of 2020

Section 16 of the Cybercrimes Act criminalizes the unlawful and intentional disclosure of a data message of an intimate image without the person’s consent. The Act defines the term ‘intimate image’ as a depiction of a person, real or simulated, in which such person is nude or their genital organs are displayed.

Section 17 of the Act further makes it an offense to aid, abet, induce, incite, instigate, instruct, command, or procure in such content. This means that anyone who re-shares, comments, reacts, or even likes the content may also be liable for criminal or civil sanction on the basis of Section 17.

The Cybercrimes Act regulates the powers of the South African Police Service to investigate cybercrimes and the Act also makes provision for the establishment of a designated Point of Contact (a cybercrimes unit) to enforce the law by way of providing assistance relating to the proceedings or investigations regarding the commission or intended commission of cybercrime. However, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and/or designated Point of Contact (POCs) aimed towards facilitating such enforcement have not yet been established.

There are, however, portals such as Cybercrime.org.za that provide resources, information, and reporting mechanisms for cybercrime.

Contact Us

If you’ve been a victim of revenge porn and would like to seek professional legal advice in an environment that is supportive and understanding of your situation, please contact our Family Law Department which has extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with a range of matters in an empathetic and understanding matter.

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