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Obscenity (in Latin obscenus, meaning "foul, repulsive, detestable"), is a term that is most often used in a legal context to describe expressions (words, images, actions) that offend the prevalent sexual morality of the time.

Despite its long formal and informal use with a sexual connotation, the word still retains the meanings of "inspiring disgust" and even "inauspicious; ill-omened", as in such uses as "obscene profits", "the obscenity of war", etc. It can simply be used to mean profanity, or it can mean anything that is taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting.

The definition of obscenity differs from culture to culture, between communities within a single culture, and also between individuals within those communities. Many cultures have produced laws to define what is considered to be obscene, and censorship is often used to try to suppress or control materials that are obscene under these definitions: usually including, but not limited to, pornographic material. As such censorship restricts freedom of expression, crafting a legal definition of obscenity presents a civil liberties issue.

Obscenity v. IndecencyEdit

Main article: Indecency

The differentiation between indecent and obscene material is a particularly difficult one, and a contentious First Amendment issue that has not fully been settled. Similarly, the level of offense (if any) generated by a profane word or phrase depends on region, context, and audience.

National lawsEdit

National laws provide the context within which obscenity is viewed within the society, while at the same time reflecting to some degree sociatal norms

Canada obscenity law Edit

Section 163 of the Canadian Criminal Code provides the country's legal definition of "obscenity". Officially termed as "Offences Tending to Corrupt Morals",[1] the Canadian prohibited class of articles which are to be legally included as "obscene things" is very broad, including text only written material, pictures, models (including statues), records or "any other thing whatsoever" -- that according to Section 163(8) -- has "a dominant characteristic of the publication is the undue exploitation of sex, or the combination of sex and at least one of crime, horror, cruelty or violence" is deemed to be "obscene" under the current law.

The current law states

163. (1) Every one commits an offense who

(a) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, circulates, or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation any obscene written matter, picture, model, phonograph record or other thing whatever; or
(b) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purposes of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic.

"Crime comics" are stated to be books that glorify criminal activities and have at least one depiction of such criminal actions of the book's text.


United Kingdom obscenity law Edit

The Obscene Publications Act basically determines the criteria for what material is allowed to be publicly accessed and distributed within the member countries of the United Kingdom.

  • Note also the proposed Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2006-2008 (ongoing) which seeks to render illegal the possession of "Extreme" Pornographic Images, as the Government claims that attempts to control the supply and distribution of this material no longer seem effective with the availability of such material on the Internet.

US obscenity lawEdit

Main article: US obsecenity law


Other countries Edit

Various countries have different standings on the types of materials that they as legal bodies permit their citizens to have access to and disseminate among their locale populations. The set of these countries permissible content vary widely accordingly with some having extreme punishment up to and including execution for members who violate their restrictions, as in the case of Iran where the current laws against pornography now include death sentences for those convicted of producing pornography.[2]

See alsoEdit

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External linksEdit


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