India Considers Banning Pornography as Reported Sexual Assault Rises

0

Internet-Cafe-India-450x300

NEW DELHI Indias Supreme Court, already deliberating a major, potentially government-destroying corruption case and a tense diplomatic incident involving the prosecution of Italian marines, took up a new and highly contentious topic last week whether pornography leads to sexual assault of women and should, therefore, be completely banned in India.

The Supreme Courts interest in the issue comes in response to apetitionthat asks the government to enact a law that would make even viewing pornographic materials a non-bailable offense. Distributing pornographic materials is already illegal in India, but the related laws are vague and rarely enforced.

I believe that watching porn corrupts people, and many of the crimes that happen to women, girls and children, such as sex-trafficking, are mostly related to pornography, said Kamlesh Vaswani, the author of the petition and an intellectual property rights lawyer who said he became interested in the issue after seeing the impact of pornography in his hometown of Indore.

India has been reeling from reports of rape and sexual violence directed at women and girls. The fatal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi on Dec. 16 prompted the government to pass strict new laws about sexual crimes, but reported rapes have risen sharply this year and many say the police response remains inadequate. Last weekend, Delhi again erupted in protests after the parents of a five-year old girl said that the police refused to register a complaint that their daughter was raped and a police officer was filmed slapping a female protestor.

The Supreme Court has asked the Ministry of Information and Technology, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Home Affairs to respond by April 29 to the petitions allegations that existing laws are not protecting women from the negative fallout of pornography.

As Internet penetration grows in India with the availability of high-speed data services and the spread of smartphones, pornography is spreading rapidly here, even though publishing or distributing it, in print or on the Web, is illegal under the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act of 2000.

There is some evidence that Indians are more actively seeking pornography on the Internet than citizens of many other countries:

Google searches for the word porn, as a proportion of total Google searches, have increased five times between 2004 and 2013 in India, according to Google Trends. Over that period, India ranked fourth worldwide, after Papua New Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, and Pakistan.

New Delhi, population 16 million, was the city with thehighest-worldwidepercentage of searches for porn in 2012. Dallas was the second highest.

One of every five mobile users in India wants adult content on his 3G-enabled phone, one 2011studyby IMRBconcludes, and pornography Web sites rank among the most popular in India. Sunny Leone, an Indian-origin Canadian porn star, became a popular in India after appearing on the Bigg Boss house here in 2011.

Its a far cry from just a decade or so ago, when the sight of a naked woman on a movie screen, much less at home on the television, was rare here, outside of a few seedy cinemas and the occasional, much-circulated video.

Mahesh Kumar A/Associated PressA Bollywood film poster in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, featuring an actress who is part of the adult-film industry.

Pornography corrupts the mind and causes sexual excitement to grow, said Vijay Panjwani, the lawyer who argued the petition on behalf on Mr. Vaswani in front of the Supreme Court last week. When a release is not found it leads to acts of sexual violence against women.

Whether viewing pornography can be directly tied to sexual violence or rape is highly debatable. A common criticism of pornography is that it has a lasting effect on the minds of regular viewers by shaping the way they think about sex and encouraging aggressive behavior.

What happens when a culture is saturated with sexually explicit images eroticizing male domination and female subordination?askedGail Dines, a sociology professor, and Robert Jensen, a journalism professor, in an op-ed for The New York Times. They argue that most pornography contains images of physical and verbal abuse of female performers and skews the viewers attitudes towards sex.

Some sociologists say that in India, the negative effects of viewing pornography are exacerbated because of a social environment that discourages regular interaction between young men and women.

India is a society in a phase of transition that is based on a high segregation of men and women, said Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. In this environment viewing pornography creates heightened sexual desire and aggression in young men who have no normal interaction with women and that can often lead to violent behavior.

The porn industry also has many defenders. The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85 percent over a period of 25 years while access to pornography has increased, according toresearchby Anthony DAmato and Glenn Reynolds, both law professors.

David Loftus, an actor and author of Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond to Pornography,arguesthat the effect of watching pornography depends on the viewer and not on the content. The men who have difficulties with pornography, much like many who cannot relate well to others and turn to crime, tend to come from dysfunctional backgrounds, where stringent rules, hypocrisy, unhappiness and even violence abounded, he wrote.

As a growing number of Indians watch pornography, the government has tried heavy-handed attempts to suppress popular Web sites. In June of 2009, for example, the government asked all Internet service providers to block a cartoon Web site called Savita Bhabhi, about a bored housewife on the grounds that it was obscene.

But some government ministers are among the growing audience: In February 2012, three ministers resigned because they were caught on camera watching porn on a mobile phone during a session of the Karnataka state assembly.

Source: NY Times (India) Blog

 

No tags for this post.
Avatar

Leave A Reply