File picture: Pexels

London - Pornography causes so much harm it should be treated like cigarettes and reckless driving, MPs demanded.

Members of the Commons women and equalities committee said porn should receive as much public funding as other major health issues.

The MPs insisted "public places must be made safe for all women and girls" as they called for a ban on viewing adult material on mobile phones on buses.

The group made a raft of recommendations on how to curb the harmful impacts of pornography. And the committee also criticised social media firms such as Twitter and Facebook, noting: "Online spaces are public places where sexual harassment of women and girls is rife." The MPs called on the Government to force global internet giants to take action on the issue.

The demands were made in a damning report which found many women and girls were left "terrified" by sexual harassment fears. It found girls as young as ten were being sexually harassed, with many targeted because they were wearing school uniforms.

And more than two in five young women have been sent obscene photos. The MPs suggested a nationwide public health campaign to warn of the dangers of pornography.

In one infamous case, Nathan Matthews, who murdered his 16-year-old step-sister Becky Watts, was found to be obsessed with violent pornography.

Matthews was believed to have watched a violent pornographic film before he throttled Miss Watts in her bedroom and then dismembered her body.

Police found a 17-minute pornographic film, which showed a victim being beaten up on her bed, among 236 images and 21 movies discovered on his laptop. He was found guilty in 2015 of murdering Miss Watts in a sexually-motivated kidnap from her home in Bristol.

He was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 33 years in prison. His girlfriend Shauna Hoare was cleared of murder, but found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 17 years in prison. The report criticised the Government for not having plans to address adult men’s use of mainstream online pornography.

It noted that research suggests men who view pornography are ‘more likely to hold sexist attitudes and be sexually aggressive towards women’.

It went on: "The Government should take an evidence-based approach to address the harms of pornography, similar to the huge investment there has been over many years in tackling road safety, or preventing public health problems caused by lawful behaviour such as smoking."

The MPs welcomed the Government’s plans to bring in age verification for online pornographic sites. But they argued social media firms should do more to tackle sexual harassment – or be forced to do so. The report added: "The definition of commercial pornography services for the Government’s policy on age verification of pornography websites should be amended to include social media, to ensure that this policy is as effective and comprehensive as possible."

Tory MP Maria Miller, the committee’s chairman, said: "Sexual harassment in public places is a regular experience for many women and girls in the street, in bars and clubs, on buses and trains, at university and online.

"Women feel the onus is put on them to avoid “risky” situations. It is not acceptable that women have to change their behaviour to avoid sexual harassment. It has a wider effect on society, contributing to a culture in which sexual violence can be normalised or excused."

The report warned: "The Government... risks giving the impression it thinks sexual harassment is either too trivial to address, or that the problem is immune to policy intervention."

Daily Mail