Seldom does one see India united except, of course, during wars (not many, thankfully) and cricket matches (too many, regretfully). But the past couple of weeks have seen Indians ‘rising’ to an occasion like never before (okay… that’s a hyperbole). The Union government’s discreet move to block 857 porn websites has the young India up in arms and social media has become their battleground.
The information and technology ministry said the move was because of the Supreme Court’s directives in an ongoing case on a petition filed in 2013 by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani, who had sought a ban on all pornographic material on the internet. The petition said pornography is “worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic”. Strong words those.
While hearing the petition in August last year, the apex court raised a pertinent question. If a person watches porn in private, within the four walls of his room, what crime has he done? Holding him guilty will be intruding into his right to freedom and privacy. Also, is it, in all practicality, at all possible to block every pornographic material on the internet?
Supporters of the ban say that making porn hard to access will encourage the seekers to give it up eventually. But has this logic ever worked? Has making a thing difficult to acquire ever reduced the desire to have it… or on the contrary, has it fanned the desire? Isn’t alcohol and beef available in the prime minister’s home state, where both have been banned for years now? Mankind will find a way around it—a tweet said computer literacy will be the winner since people would now learn about VPN and proxy servers!
Another argument is that hardcore and child porn encourage abusive and violent sexual practices. That it promotes sexism and rape. Now, this is a grey area. There is no conclusive proof to either support this perception, or deny it. For instance, the accused in the 2013 Mumbai photojournalist gang-rape case had porn clips in his mobile, and he was “sexually repressed”. But it’s also true that many say watching porn in private helps them to rein in their libido and that it’s a source of ‘release’. But yes, the government is rightfully concerned about child porn.
Following widespread criticism—celebrities like Sonam Kapoor, Ram Gopal Varma, Shobhaa De and Chetan Bhagat, too, joined in—the IT ministry said the ban was temporary and its real targets were the sites promoting child pornography. Also, the ministry put the onus on the internet ISPs saying they can decide which sites to block. The ISPs, meanwhile, are crying foul as they do not want to rush in where the government itself fears to tread.
The butt of jokes and jealous barbs, though, is the ‘executive’ who had the fortune (or misfortune depending on which side you are on) of surfing through hundreds of porn websites to prepare the final ‘offensive’ list. Back-breaking work it must have been!