Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, Section 2

Section 2 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 makes it a criminal office to disclose, or threaten to disclose, a photograph or film which shows, or appears to show, another person in an intimate situation. Introduced in response to the growing phenomenon of ‘revenge porn’, whereby vengeful ex-partners distribute private sexual images without the consent of their former partners, the offence goes further than this. It also extends to the non-consensual distribution of other forms of image-based sexual abuse, notably so-called upskirt images, that those (often but not always) surreptitiously taken up a woman’s skirt, and pornographic photoshopping, where, for example, an individual’s Facebook profile picture is superimposed onto an explicit image. As such it was the first – and to date only – legislation in the UK and Ireland addressing varied forms of image-based sexual abuse.

Section 2 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 is unusual in delivering more than it promised. Sold as an offence to address the problem of revenge porn, from the outset it has gone beyond this. By the time it was passed, the so-called ‘revenge porn law’ provides a bespoke response to multiple forms image-based sexual abuse. As such it is a key milestone in ongoing efforts to protect and respect women’s privacy and sexual autonomy both on and off line.

Erika Rackley

The full version of this landmark is written by Erika Rackley.

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Not Yours to share: http://notyourstoshare.scot/

Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley, ‘Not “revenge porn”, but abuse: let’s call it image-based sexual abuse’ (Everyday Victim Blaming, 6 March 2016) https://everydayvictimblaming.com/media-complaints/not-revenge-porn-but-abuse-lets-call-it-image-based-sexual-abuse-by-%e2%80%8fmcglynnclare-erikarackley/

Clare McGlynn, Erika Rackley and Ruth Houghton, ‘“Beyond ‘Revenge Porn”: The Continuum of Image-Based Sexual Abuse’ (2017) 25(1) Feminist Legal Studies 25–46 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10691-017-9343-2

Clare McGlynn, ‘The Law Must Protect All Victims Of Image-Based Sexual Abuse – Not Just Upskirting’ Huffington Post, 9 March 2018 https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/not-only-upskirting-law-must-protect-all-victims_uk_5aa105e8e4b0ef2aaff7048e