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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 15:37 GMT
MSPs back pornography ban calls
Man hitting a woman
The petition links pornography with violence against women
A committee of MSPs has backed a call to ban adult pornography in Scotland.

The Equal Opportunities Committee supported a petition claiming links between porn and sexual crimes and violence against women and children.

The document from Scottish Women Against Pornography urges parliament to define such material as incitement to sexual hatred and make it an offence.

The committee looks set to launch a inquiry after claiming that the issue has been ignored for too long.

However, any official probe would be subject to gaining further information and agreeing a remit with parliament.

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Committee members acknowledged the potential difficulties of defining a law to introduce a ban on the porn industry but hoped it would be similar to that of incitement to racial hatred.

Labour's Elaine Smith led calls for an inquiry into the "big business" of pornography.

She said: "I think that since studies do exist showing the harmful effects they should signal to us the precautionary principle and they should be doing further research into it.

"I don't think we can ignore it any longer."

Fellow Labour committee member Marlyn Glen added: "It seems to me that the safety of women should be a real priority of the executive and the parliament and what we need is the political will to push that through."

The Scottish National Party's Sandra White, Green MSP Shona Baird and the Scottish Socialist Party's Frances Curran also backed an inquiry.

'Wealth of evidence'

Catherine Harper, of Scottish Women Against Pornography, said she was encouraged by the political support for the campaign.

She conceded that any legislation could take time but parliament needed to hear the "wealth of evidence" on the links between pornography and sexual violence.

Ms Harper went on: "I have high expectations. It was very, very encouraging to see the consensus of the committee that we need to look at this."

In May, the Scottish Executive said that its review of existing research had shown that for every study purporting to demonstrate a harmful link between the consumption of pornography, there was another which rejected the idea.

As such, it claims that establishing links between all pornography and abuse is a complex issue.

A spokeswoman said: "We have reviewed the relevant literature but believe that the relationship between the two remains unclear.

"While we have no plans to legislate we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation."

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