“Porne” stands for prostitute and “graphia” stands for documentation, in short porn is nothing more than a filmed prostitution. Many scholars and psychologists like Cordelia Anderson and Donna Rice Hughes have argued that unabated exposure to pornography has negative impact on children, youth and society at large. Not just for protecting Victorian values but for the sake of debating and discussion spread of pornographic industry with the widening access to internet, the Public Interest Litigation filed by an advocate from Indore is important one. Instead of debating the socio-psychological impact of this menace, liberal intelligentsia chose to politicise the matter and used it for targeting the Government as ‘fascist’. When access to education and employment are so significant issues in Bharatiya context, arguing for pornography in the name of ‘freedom’ is absurd. One can debate the role of government, technical difficulties involved, in regulating such obscene content but completely discarding the ill effects of this industry by citing Khajurao and Kam Sutra, is another example of hollow understanding of Bharatiya culture by liberals.
Apublic interest litigation which recently became the bone of contention on prime time television,seeks the following reliefs:
(a) A direction to the government to formulate a National Policy and draft an action Plan on the issue of Pornography;
(b) A direction to the government to prepare a separate law on the issue
(c) For direction that watching and sharing of porn videos should be taken as non-bailable and cognizable offence;
(d) Provisions of the Information Technology Act dealing with pornography to be declared ultra-vires being ineffective.
This PIL was inconspicuously pending since April 2013 until the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India directed the intermediaries (internet service providers) to disable 857 websites, apparently for having pornographic content. This directive gave huge TRPs to the media where panelists animatedly campaigned for the noble cause of people’s freedom of speech and expression. One could feel that pornography was our utmost priority being life-blood of our society. Arguments advanced in favour
of pornography indicated that our
freedom of speech and expression thrives upon watching pornography and a ban thereon would render us an autocratic state.
The consumers of porn are also minors and juveniles, who are not able to form “consent” or exercise balanced discretion over sensitive matters. These minors learn behaviour from surrounding examples. He also missed that fact that when minors choose to watch porn in their ideal free society; they are, in their very first flush with sex,met with the most common titles of porn suggestive of rape, polygamy, polyandry, paedophile, incest, poser-porn, etc. One can bet that there is no porn in the name of husband-wife-relationship, because that will never sell! This side of the sexual behaviour not only objectifies women, but also disassociates sex from love and affection. To say the least, it glorifies unnatural and criminal behaviour, thereby leading the juveniles into sexual delinquency. In the most alarming Nirbhaya Case the juvenile convicts were exposed to porn since early years of life.
The sexually explicit acts contained in movies lead them to an Adult certificate, away from the children’s reach. If prevention of children from watching adult movies in halls is in alignment with their rights, then why should there be a ban on their free access of porn on the internet be seen as a violation? Let us now grow up and see what effects the porn has on adults who are able to form consent and exercise discretion. True it is that studies on the link between porn and crime are conflicting. But let us shift focus to the ground reality. Criminal courts are full of cases where the rapists watched porn immediately before and/or during the rape. In State of Maharashtra Versus Mohd. Ashfaq Dawood Shaikh, Sessions Case No.914 OF 2013 (popularly known as the Shakti Mills Case), the rapist had very conveniently taken a defence that “the mind of any person may get deviated because of the pornographic clips which are easily available on the Internet”. In Anil Kumar Versus State of Haryana, CWP No. 8880 of 2011, a teacher forced his student to watch porn on his mobile phone and then raped her in the same manner. The instinct to enact porn videos is what gives birth to an instinctive sexual offender. When we see the Sun setting every day, we don’t need studies to find out that the Sunsets in the West!
But how deep were the waters when the government’s ban sank? Well, the answer takes us to the PIL filed by Kamlesh Vaswani, Advocate before the Supreme Court. In his deftly drafted petition, Vaswani has basically linked porn with crime and juvenile delinquency. The Court hearings are also on these lines only.
However, the Supreme Court directed the government to place the writ petition before the Government’s Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee which was constituted to deliberate on availability of pornography on Internet. And this is where the digression came. The tenets of government’s self imposed moral obligation towards society and Bharatiya culture was in fact invented by the government itself. Rather than basing the ban on the legal and scientific grounds on which the petition was based and was also moving, the government adopted a moral obligation towards the Indian culture; and thereby invited a section of the society to raise noise about moral policing and bad Hindutva – the two things totally unrelated with porn and its ban.
Had the government taken steps in this direction in a professional manner, it would not have had to retract. There simply was not any way to impose the ban in an impulsive manner. But probably the government realised this afterwards. By this time the lapses had started snowballing. The first reaction was to cover up the impulsive ban under a Supreme Court order. But in fact there was not such order. Oral observations made by the courts are not orders at all. Government’s out-of-the-blue stand boomeranged and the media earned TRPs.
This explains why the so called liberals were able to bully the government into taking a U-turn. The U-turn was explained in the Court on the ground that the ‘government cannot regulate what happens in the households’ bedrooms’.
Well, this was too bad an attempt at justification. Firstly, adultery, polygamy and unnatural sexual behaviour are all either offences and/or entail dire consequences like divorce. If sexual behaviors like these can be unlawful, pornography can certainly be banned. In fact our courts say that criminal conspiracy is also hatched under secrecy and has no direct evidence. Extending the government’s logic, even criminal conspiracy should be legalised. Such a justification will lead us to absurd conclusions.
Secondly, the ban was not on ‘what happens in households’ bedrooms. The ban was on dissemination and commercialisation of porn in the open market that internet is. This does not happen secretly and is in fact advertised. Such advertisements pop up in the consumer’s screen even without his consent. This can therefore be regulated despite the technological hurdles that do not justify porn.
Manisha Agrawal Narain (The writer is an advocate & secretary of Adhivakta Parishad Delhi State)