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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist


Gcinile Twala sex tape leak sparks debate on legal consequences of revenge porn

Social media law specialist Emma Sadleir spoke to The Citizen about the dangers around the non-consensual distribution of private sexual photos and videos.


On Monday social media influencer Gcinile Twala’s name was atop the trending list following the leak of her sex tape with her ex-fiance, Themba ’Grootman’ Selahle.

The footage was allegedly leaked by Grootman and has gone viral on social media. The leaking of the former couple during intercourse has shone the spotlight on the prevalence of revenge porn.

By definition, revenge porn is the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos of individuals without their consent.

The material may have been made by a partner in an intimate relationship with the knowledge and consent of the subject at the time, or it may have been made without their knowledge.

The Citizen spoke with Social media law Specialist Emma Sadleir about the dangers around the non-consensual distribution of private sexual photos or videos following the leaking of Gcinile and Grootman’s sex tape.

ALSO READ: Women for Change comes to Gcinile Twala’s defence after sex tape was leaked

New laws can end in criminal prosecution

“The non-consensual distribution of private sexual photos or videos is a very serious criminal offence in South Africa,” warned Sadleir.

Sadleir is the co-author of the book Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex.

In the book she co-wrote with Tamsyn de Beer, they point out the social traps and legal tangles that one could find yourself facing as you navigate the murky waters of the digital age.

According to Sadleir, historically South Africans had to rely on the crime of crimen injuria. “This is a generic crime, which is when somebody seriously infringes your dignity because of content published,” she said.

However, as of a couple of years ago, there are two new laws that specifically criminalise revenge pornography and non-consensual distribution image-based violence.

The first of these laws is the Films and publications Amendment Act.

“If somebody shares a private sexual photo or video of you, without your prior consent, and you can be identified in the content, or there’s information which makes you identifiable, that is a criminal offence,” said the social media law consultant.

“The fine is up to R300 000 fine and the sentence up four years in prison,” averred Sadleir.

The other law is under the cybercrimes act, which is a new law that has a variety of offences relating to the online world in it.

“That criminalises the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. It’s a very serious crime. We must remind everybody that every single person in the chain of publishing illegal content is responsible for the specific post,” she said.

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Beware of what you forward or share

Just like most leaked footage of people during intercourse, the video of Gcinile and Grootman has been shared multiple times on social media platforms, specifically X.

But Sadleir insists that whenever a person presses ‘forward’ or ‘share’ on such content, it is viewed as a fresh publication.

“Every time you show it to somebody, it’s a fresh publication. These are very serious criminal issues and I urge everybody who has the video in question in their possession to delete it and not to share the content further. Each share constitutes a fresh criminal offence.

Gcinile’s case: The ‘heinous act of revenge porn’

Non-profit organisation (NPO) Women For Change has come in defence of Gcinile and called for the arrest of Grootman.

“Women For Change are deeply appalled and outraged by the sex video that was allegedly leaked by Themba Selahle, known as ’Grootman’. This heinous act of revenge porn is not only a gross violation of privacy but also a deeply traumatising experience for Gcinile Twala,” read the statement from the NPO.

“We call on law enforcement, policymakers, and community leaders to take a stand against revenge porn and all forms of gender-based violence (GBVF),” read the statement released on Monday.

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