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Porn ban in Kamasutra land: Will it work?

Last updated on: August 04, 2015 11:43 IST

Let’s face it. We’ve all watched porn! You may publicly deny it, but you know for a fact that sometime, somewhere in life we’ve all been intrigued and at times desperate to secretly watch porn. Are you committing a crime? The arguments are many, but the fact remains that the world is hooked on, and almost addicted, to this surreptitious orgasmic pleasure.

In a country like India, where sex talk in public space is almost absent, porn websites, videos, photographs (and not to mention ‘adult’ toys) has always been readily available, especially in the digital world. Believe it or not, according to statistics from a popular porn website -- Pornhub, Indians are the most ‘prolific consumers’ of internet pornography and account for 40 per cent of its 14.2 billion visitors.

However, on Sunday (August 2), a host of porn lovers in the country were taken aback when major Internet Service Providers like Vodafone, MTNL, Hathway, BSNL and ACT made several porn websites inaccessible to the Indian masses. According to news reports, the matter came to light on Saturday night when countless internet porn consumers were unable to access popular porn websites.

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Frustrated and irked, they took to social media to address the matter. And with reports trickling in that the government has officially banned access to over 800 websites, a nationwide debate has been sparked on the viability of such a move.

According to a report (external link), “by order no. 813-7/25/2011-DS (Vol.-V), the department of Electronics and Information Technology has asked the Department of Telecom to notify internet service providers to block access to 857 URLs, under the provision of Section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as the content hosted on these websites relate to morality, decency as given in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.”

This move comes despite the Supreme Court saying that adults watching porn in the confines of their home is not a crime.

So, will this ban on porn actually stop people from consuming pornographic content? Well, obviously not!

While on one hand the ‘moral policemen’ will continue to fight hard for the ban on online porn to remain, on the other hand there will be those who’ll obviously claim that a ban on any kind of content on the Internet is an unabashed attack on a person’s freedom. And then there are those who believe that pornographic content encourages violence against women and children. So, if the government believes that enforcing a ban of internet pornography will lead to a reduction in crimes against women and children, and do a world of good to the mind-set of people in India, then let me remind them that internet is really not the only source of pornography.

Agreed that the whole world appears to be digitally well connected today, but that doesn’t take away the fact that pornographic content won’t reach the hands of those desperately seeking for it. It’s a simple, universal truth -- people are bound to run more behind something that is not readily available to them, and the government’s move to ban porn websites will definitely make way for alternatives to kick in.

It’s a known datum that despite a huge bank of porn videos available online, there’s still an active business of porn CDs and DVDs running across the country. Be it in the by-lanes of Delhi’s Palika Bazaar or the crowded streets of Mumbai’s markets, all that one needs to do is walk up to a CD seller and just ask for some good ‘maal’. This practice has been going on for years and will only become a more workable option in such a scenario.

Has the government also forgotten that there is already a bank of pornographic content readily available with people? Thanks to countless downloads and numerous data transfers, the amount of pornographic data stored with people across the country is obviously unimaginable. Now that the government has enforced a legitimate ban on online porn, how much time do you think it would take for a person to dig into his bank of content and spread it across various social media platforms (especially over private chat apps like WhatsApp).

If the government thinks that they will be able to control that, then they’re either fooling themselves or have no clue about the power of viral media.

There are millions of porn sites available on the Internet, and blocking all of them seems like a task that's next to impossible. But even if the government manages to do so, the technically competent internet users will bring their best out and turn to proxy servers or private networks to lay their hands on what they want to see.

It’s not only websites that showcase pornographic content that’s getting all the traction, but slowly and steadily the business of ‘adult’ toys too is finding numerous takers in the online space. Though the industry is embryonic in India, as compared to other developed countries, people are slowly getting comfortable in buying such products and are gradually shedding their narrow-mindedness towards sex. In such a scenario, shouldn’t the government capitalise on this seemingly plausible paradigm shift in the outlook towards sex?

From the looks of it, the government obviously has other plans.

India, a land that gave birth to Kamasutra, has for centuries depicted the power of erotic arts through its temples, structures and scriptures. In such a country, banning pornography will only lead to the encouragement of an illegal market and also give more weightage to the acuity of sex as a taboo.

Is porn really the fundamental concern? Here’s something I hope the government spends some time pondering over.

Image used for representational purposes only.

Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

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