Sex shops, so far illegal in Malta, will soon be able to open on the strength of legal reforms that will allow pornographic material to be displayed so long as a clear warning is affixed outside the shop.

The warning must read: “Warning. Persons passing beyond this notice will find material on display which they may consider indecent. No admittance to persons under 18 years of age.”

It will still be illegal to distribute pornographic material in public places and to expose children or the unsuspecting public to pornographic material.

This is one of a series of legal reforms, unveiled today, addressing morality and censorship. Another amendment decriminalises the vilification of religion.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said these reforms showed that government did not believe that the State ought to be the moral custodian of adults.

“Adults are to be treated as adults... These reforms aim to incentivise freedom of artistic expression while protecting the vulnerable,” he said this morning.

In 2009 author Alex Vella Gera and editor Mark Camilleri were arraigned in court for offending public morals with the publication of a sexually explicit and crude short story in university newspaper Realtà. They had been cleared of the charges.

Mr Camilleri explained that the experience spurred the setting up of the pressure group Front Against Censorship that was involved in drawing up the amendments.

He explained that the legal reforms – that were in draft stage and would soon be presented in Parliament – will include the complete removal of articles 163 and 164 of the Criminal Code. This will mean decriminalising the vilification of the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion and other religions.

“The two articles made it illegal to vilify religion “by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means”.)

Article 165 will remain in force and it will still be illegal to disturb a religious ceremony. However, this now applies to any religion.

Mr Camilleri said that the amendment to article 208 clearly defines what pornography is for the first time and states that, while it will still be illegal to distribute it in public spaces, when it came to art the entire context had to be taken into account.


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