Opinion Number. 1563

Subject

POST AND TELEGRAPH POST AND TELEGRAPH: POWER TO REFUSE TO TRANSMIT OR DELIVER ‘INDECENT OR OBSCENE’ MATTER: ADVERTISEMENT RELATING TO PRACTICES DESIGNED TO PREVENT PREGNANCY: ADVERTISEMENT RELATING TO TREATMENT FOR ‘PREMATURE FAILURE OF THE SEXUAL POWERS’

Key Legislation

Post and Telegraph Act 1901 ss 3, 44

Date
Client
The Secretary, Postmaster-General

The Secretary, Postmaster-General’s Department has forwarded to me the following memorandum for advice:

The Deputy Director, Posts and Telegraphs, has submitted to this office the attached copies of ‘The Guide to Health’ and ‘Advice on Birth Control’, with a view to obtain a ruling as to the eligibility of packets each containing a copy of both pamphlets for transmission by post. It is stated that the sender proposes to forward the pamphlets through the post in plain envelopes (flaps turned in), and to circulate them promiscuously to addresses selected from a street, trade or telephone directory.

2. Will you kindly favour me with advice whether the pamphlet ‘Advice on Birth Control’ contains indecent or obscene matter within the meaning of section 44 of the Post and Telegraph Act.

Section 44 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901–1934 is as follows:

The Postmaster-General or any Deputy Postmaster-General may refuse to transmit or deliver any newspaper packet or parcel containing any article book picture or advertisement or any printed or written matter in the nature of an advertisement, which article book picture advertisement or matter is of an indecent or obscene nature, and may cause any such newspaper packet or parcel to be destroyed.

By section 3 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901–1934, ‘indecent or obscene matter’ is defined to mean, amongst other things, ‘any printed or written matter in the nature of an advertisement if it relates .... to nervous debility or other complaint or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual impotence or intercourse or sexual abuse or to pregnancy … or to the treatment of any complaint or condition peculiar to females …’

The pamphlet ‘Sexsafe’ advocates birth control, the use of contraceptives, and invites persons to purchase certain articles for this purpose. It also advertises treatment for ‘premature failure of the sexual powers’.

In my opinion, ‘Sexsafe’, inasmuch as it deals with the practices designed to prevent pregnancy, and advertises treatment for ‘premature failure of the sexual powers’, comes within the meaning of ‘indecent or obscene matter’ as defined in the Act, and is, therefore, ineligible for transmission by post.

The other pamphlet ‘The Guide to Health’ contains information and advertisements in respect of certain human ailments, but I am unable to find therein any matter of an indecent or obscene nature.

In my opinion, therefore, this pamphlet is eligible for transmission by post.

[Vol. 27, p. 416]