U.K. Censors Put Stronger Restrictions on Films With Rape Scenes

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'The Duchess' was given a 12 rating in 2008, but would be given a 15 under new U.K. guidelines.

Films with scenes of sexual violence will now be rated only for those age 15 and above.

The British film ratings system has been updated to prevent scenes of rape or other forms of sexual violence from appearing in films below a 15 rating, which suggests they should only be watched by viewers who are at least 15 years old.

The British Board of Film Classification published new guidelines on Thursday following a public consultation that showed people felt a "heightened sense of anxiety" when it comes to depictions of real-world scenarios and changing attitudes towards sexual threat and violence over the past five years. 

The new guidelines state that no film containing depictions of rape or strong sexual violence would be given a rating below a 15, rather than a 12. The BBFC said it also wanted its ratings to appear on all streaming services.

Among those films that would have been impacted by the update are 2008's Keira Knightley-starring period drama The Duchess, classified as a 12 at the time despite containing a rape scene. 

"What parents told us was, that's too much for 12-year-olds," BBFC CEO David Austin told BBC News. "It's enough that a 12-year-old knows that a rape has taken place. They do not need to see it, no matter how discreetly it's filmed."

The new guidelines will come into force on Feb. 28, 2019.