A still from '365 Days.' (Netflix/File)
Women's activists are urging Netflix to add specific content warnings to the hit film "365 Days" which they accuse of glamorizing rape and sex trafficking, after the streaming site dismissed calls to remove the film.
Polish film "365 Days" follows Laura - played by Polish actress Anna-Maria Sieklucka - imprisoned by Sicilian mafia boss Massimo - played by Italian actor Michele Morrone - who gives his hostage a year to fall in love with him.
Netflix said on Friday it would continue to stream the film after calls for its withdrawal, including from British singer Duffy, saying the film carried high ratings for violence, sex, and nudity and viewers could decide if they wanted to watch it.
But Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England & Wales, a national charity, said platforms needed to more clearly flag such content so viewers could make an informed choice.
"That means not just generic labeling," she said, adding that a warning saying a film contains sex is lacking if its content also includes sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
"Clear labeling is a very straightforward thing to do, but is not common across the board," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Lucia Kopcokova, a spokesperson for ProEmpower, a British student-led group advocating better support for sexual violence victims, said viewers needed to know in advance that a film contained scenes of rape and sexual violence.
In Britain, the film carries an 18 certificate and a warning that it contains sex and sexual violence, a Netflix spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.
However checks showed that age certificates are lower and warnings not always consistent in other countries showing the film, which has topped or neared the top of Netflix’s most viewed charts in the United States, Britain, Australia and Germany in recent weeks.
Women's activists accuse the film of glamorising violence against women by romanticizing male violence and abuse as well as glorifying sex trafficking.
The United Nations' International Labour Organization and the Walk Free Foundation estimate there about 4.8 million victims globally of sex trafficking, mainly women and girls, trapped in an industry worth an estimated $99 billion a year.
Caitlin Roper, campaigns manager at Collective Shout, an Australian non-profit that fights the sexualization of girls in popular culture, said in the film Massimo kidnaps Laura and holds her hostage because he "loves" her.
“He has a violent temper and frequently lashes out against her, grabbing her by the throat and slamming her into walls, and pinning her down. These are all hallmarks of an abusive relationship, but "365 Days" paints them as romantic,” she said.
"When a woman is not in a position to give meaningful consent, Massimo goes ahead anyway. This is depicted as being sexy, but in reality there’s nothing sexy about sexual assault.”
Younger viewers who have not have grasped ideas of consent are particularly vulnerable to the film, said Kopcokova.
“We live in a very digital age where a child's first encounter with sex is likely to be online and with porn ... this film teaches that non-consensual sex is basically acceptable."
Russell said dramatizing difficult social issues like sexual assault can have a positive educational impact, but without clear trigger warnings in place, these could be extremely harmful, especially to rape victims.
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