Professor cleared in court case on public indecency Web link to pictures of sexual intercourse not clearly pornographic, judges declare

【2004/06/26 Taiwan News】

staff reporter / Lu Chia-ying

Taipei District Court judges declared a university professor not guilty yesterday, after prosecutors charged her with violating the laws of public decency when she posted a link to a Web site that showed detailed pornographic pictures of bestiality.

“The pictures are merely a part of the Web site,” the court ruling stated. “It will be too subjective to determine that they are indecent articles.”

Josephine Ho (何春蕤), a feminist and professor of English at National Central University, won the lawsuit in which she was accused of jeopardizing public decency by posting the “Beast Love” link on the Web site of the NCU’s Center for the Study of Sexuality, last April.

Ho who was director of the center at the time, explained that “intercourse between human beings and animals does exist, therefore, it is worth researching … I hoped that everyone would view it as academic research rather than pornography.”

Despite Ho’s explanation, the hyperlink gave rise to dispute among some educators and women’s groups, who charged that Ho had abused the freedom of academic research, and sparked an argument over the fine line between pornography and academic research.

The Ministry of Education, after receiving complaints from more than 15 civilian groups, demanded that Ho remove the link.

Prosecutors indicted Ho last December, charging the professor with violating Article 235 of the Criminal Code which stipulates a sentence of less than one year and a fine up to NT$3,000 for offenders. The article prohibits the distribution, sale, and display of indecent writings, drawings or other pornographic works.

The prosecutors’ indicted Ho for circulating indecent pictures. However, the judges deemed that it was hard to conclude that the photos were “indecent.”

The pictures were posted under the heading of “perspective and discussion” on the NCU Web site, where information about sexuality is usually posted for academic study, the judges said. It is therefore hard to conclude that the photos amounted to obscenity, in accordance with No.407 Constitutional Interpretation as given by the Grand Justice Council, they concluded.

The interpretation states that “to distinguish obscene publications from art, medical or educational publications, one must examine the features and aims of the publications at issue as a whole, and adapt them to the contemporary common values of society.”

Prosecutors are allowed to file an appeal against the ruling, but Ho said that she is certain to win the case, if they do.

Furthermore, Ho pledged that “the Web page on bestiality will be expanded … to fight against the resentment of those parochial minds.”

“I am going to collaborate with human rights activists and practitioners of the law to push for the abolition of some of these malign laws,” Ho told reporters after the verdict was announced. She particularly singled out Article 235 of the Criminal Code, which she described as “outdated and an infringement on human rights and individual privacy.”