At a local newsagents
In 2005 I got closely involved in a local campaign to rid our newsagents of offensive pornographic materials. Some 'lads mags' and certain tabloid titles carry materials that should be kept well out of the reach and sight of children but are displayed in easy to reach and see places. I met with Mr Hamdy Shahein who has been running a newsagents and travel business on Stoke Newington High Street for the past 16 years. He took on WH Smith, the retail and distribution giant, because they insisted on delivering soft porn magazines to his busy shop. Mr Shahein objected, saying that the store was used by many women and children and he didn't wish to sell material that might offend any of his customers. I was happy to support his campaign and took the case to Parliament where I tabled a Commons Motion.
Following that I convened a meeting in the House of Commons where concerned MPs got together to discuss what action to take to ensure that offensive materials are kept well out of the reach and sight of children. I argued that an overhaul of media regulation was long overdue. Pornography should be sold appropriately – on the top shelf – way out of the reach and sight of young children. I argued that a reworking of our definition of what constitutes a pornographic publication was needed. So-called 'lads-mags' and some of the tabloids contain very disturbing and degrading images of women and were readily available on the bottom shelf in full view and reach of young children. The desensitisation of children to pornographic images is harmful not only to the children but to women and gender equality issues generally.
As a result of the campaign, and the hard work of MPs, the owners of newsagents and customers who complained about the display of "lads' mags", in March 2006 the National Federation of Newsagents produced a set of guidelines for newsagents to follow. The guidelines set out best practice for displaying magazines and newspapers that contain pornographic material. They clearly state that newsagents should give special attention to displaying these materials above the vision line of children. I was pleased that the campaign was successful and that newsagents now have clear guidelines for ensuring inappropriate materials are stored in out of reach places.
In the future I would really like to see some form of legislation introduced that prevents children from buying this material. It seems absurd that you cannot sell cigarettes to children, you cannot sell glue to children and yet you can sell pornography to children. I will now continue the fight to bring in legislation which changes that.