22 August 2013

Namibia: Nudity Is Art, Not Pornography

Windhoek — An investigation by New Era has revealed that a German national residing in Namibia has taken and posted pictures of nude Namibian girls on a website.

The website in question that has raised eyebrows is www.fotoblur.com. When approached for comment the photographer, a lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam) Christian Goltz said the pictures he posted cannot be published in print, because "they (the girls) would get in trouble". He noted that the girls signed a model release agreement, which is equivalent to an indemnity agreement and that the nude girls were well aware of his intention to post their pictures online. "I am not sure if you are familiar with that (model release), it is included in that. I work as an artist and they become like my family. I would never do that to them (exploit them)," he said in defence of his actions.

According to the Communications Act of 2009 (117) any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene or indecent, knowing that the recipient of the communication is under 18 years of age, regardless of whether the maker of such communication placed the call or initiated the communication, is regarded as a general offence.

Comments made by visitors to the website in response to the photographs, some incoherent, but suggestive, included: "I live in Namibia. When I have money, I invite some girls and go into the desert. I wish I had more money. More Namib Nudes. The virgin is the one on the right in front." Asked about the comments he said art is not always understood hence the lewd comments made by some of the viewers. "These people are complete idiots, but you will always have people that make such comments, because they do not understand that it is art," he emphasised.

According to its masthead the website is the playground of photographers where they share their photos. The photo collections posted on the site vary from butterfly metamorphosis, snapshots of majestic rivers meandering through mountains, the odd wheat stalk in the wind and now the Namib beauties in their birthsuits. Fotoblur was founded in 2008 by Lance Ramoth and is located in San Mateo, California and boasts 604 980 pictures, which has led to 437 933 connections. Around 9 307 540 comments have been made about the pictures on the website that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

The terms and conditions of the website state that the services will not be used to upload, post, or otherwise transmit any material that is obscene, offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, unlawful, threatening, menacing, abusive, harmful, an invasion of privacy or publicity rights, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, illegal or otherwise objectionable. The Oxford dictionary defines pornography as printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement. Goltz however explained that his nude picture collection is nothing but art.

The Executive Director of Women's Action for Development (WAD) Veronica de Klerk argued that women must understand that men will abuse them if they give consent to such pictures. "How can a man do that? He must think of his mother before he takes any such pictures. This is sacred to women. This is women's privacy and is totally unacceptable, that is why men commit all these atrocities against women. Because they do not respect women. I take this back to the parents, boys are not reared as they should be reared by their parents. I take it to churches - pastors must speak about how important it is to raise boys to respect girls," she charged. She did, however, point out that it becomes a different matter when nude pictures are taken with consent.

Dianne Hubbard from the Legal Assistance Centre explained that with the emphasis on intent it becomes tricky to determine the illegality of nude pictures online.

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