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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Access to child porn as easy as 1-2-3
Shreevatsa Nevatia, Hindustan Times
April 25, 2013
First Published: 21:37 IST(25/4/2013)
Last Updated: 11:31 IST(26/4/2013)

If the nature of tweets posted early last week were a faithful scale of the national pulse, Arvind Kejriwal would perhaps emerge as India’s first port of call for everyday complaints. Still possibly recovering from starvation and the tripling digits of electricity bills, the Aam Aadmi Party chief’s services were again called for in this 95-character public plea — “Where is Arvind Kejriwal and his fasting ways when the youth of the country needs him?

#PornBan” The hashtag ‘pornban’, it was reported at the time, had become quite a trend on Twitter. An online community of instant commentators and distressed men were letting the world know that they were rather peeved by the fact that a Supreme Court bench, headed by chief justice Altamas Kabir, had demanded that the Union government react to a petition which sought to draw a direct relation between pornography and the rise in instances of sexual assault.

The Indore-based petitioner Kamlesh Waswani further implored the apex court that a ban on pornography must also be accompanied with the arguably extreme measure of treating the watching of it as a non-bailable and cognisable offence. The outcry on Twitter then seems to be informed by a masculine fear that not only would surreptitious midnight moments hunched in front of a laptop be stolen, but worse, it could land a majority of our nation’s male populace in prison. Waswani’s mention of the December 16 gang rape and its brutality could well lead these men to claim that they are neither Ram Singhs nor delinquent juveniles, but their earnest claims of moral innocence have been disturbed by the confessions of an accused in the case of a five-year-old’s rape in Delhi.

According to what Manoj Kumar has told police officials, he and his friend Pradeep Ram were watching pornographic video clips on a mobile phone shortly before they abducted a child from their neighbourhood, starved her for two days, raped her multiple times, strangulated her and left her unconscious in a pool of her own blood after trying to slit her throat. Advocates of pornography and its anti-repression utilities will now have to defend a form of recreation that has seemingly propelled 19- and 22-year-olds to commit an act of dastardly and unpardonable violence.

Waswani highlighted the fact that all it takes to now access child pornographic material is an everyday Google search. If one were indeed to verify the petitioner’s claim, one would find scores of chatrooms that sanctify the misogynistic desire for virginity with names such as ‘18 looking for experience’ and ‘Legal today’. In freely available video streams, the age of girls being subjected to varying degrees of sexual humiliation remains questionable. A few clicks away from one’s homepage lies access to widely posted pictures of children without their clothes.

While the nature of pornography being watched by Manoj Kumar and Pradeep Ram is not known, what seems unnerving is the fact that by dint of simply having a mobile phone, they might have had access to such web addresses. The concern of Waswani is underscored by India’s boast of over 900 million mobile phone subscribers, a sizeable fraction of which has now started enjoying the benefits of internet-enabled smartphones. The people of Waswani’s Indore now inadvertently live in a culture where an aspirational gadget can bring to them representations of a paedophilic violence they see being exactly emulated in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh’s Seoni district, Barabanki, even Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur.

When asked for an opinion on whether watching pornography could effectively trigger violence, minister of state for information and technology Milind Deora confessed to not having a view on the matter earlier this week. His other liberal affirmations that India did not have a policy of encouraging censorship were possibly informed by previously convincing academic research, which, after assessing web habits in American, Japanese and Chinese cultures, had concluded that an increase in pornographic consumption and a decline in instances of sexual violence were simultaneous occurrences. In India, the frequency with which the word ‘rape’ has started entering our headlines and the ubiquity of the web-friendly mobile phone suggest an opposite truth.

Ironically, a solution glimmers in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Orwell gives his proles, inhabitants of a totalitarian universe, access to State-sanctioned pornography. The Indian government, which has already been given the Big Brother tag for banning the pornographic online magazine Savita Bhabhi, should perhaps dwell on the present petitioner’s argument that current cyber laws prove insufficient when tackling the proliferation of dangerous pornography that should be the first exception to our freedoms of expression.

If the Indian government decides to reconsider the nation’s cyber laws and regulate online content, it would vindicate writer Angela Carter. The author had once written, “Pornographers are the enemies of women only because our contemporary ideology of pornography does not encompass the possibility of change.” It seems a pity she’d now have to fight the case of children too.


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