Meet Kamlesh Vaswani, the lawyer behind India's porn ban | india | Hindustan Times
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Meet Kamlesh Vaswani, the lawyer behind India's porn ban

india Updated: Aug 05, 2015 09:22 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times
Kamlesh Vaswani

Indore-based-advocate-Kamlesh-Vaswani-s-PIL-petition-has-led-to-the-recent-ban-on-porn-sites-Facebook-profile

Sitting at his office close to Indore High Court, Kamlesh Vaswani, an advocate for more than 15 years, had heard of numerous brutal rapes from colleagues and news channels. And then, there was the horrific gang-rape in Delhi on December 16, 2012 in which a paramedic was assaulted and murdered.

Whenever 43-year-old Vaswani heard of such violence against women, he felt he should do something. He ended up drawing a connection between pornography on the internet and sex crimes, and filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court in 2013 seeking a complete ban on all porn websites. His petition is the only such move against online pornography in India.

On Sunday, when the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 adult websites, Vaswani felt his two-and-half-year-long fight had finally taken off.

“I’m extremely happy that the Modi government has finally decided to take action against online pornography considering the Supreme Court’s observations. The ban is definitely a step towards protecting the country’s women and children,” Vaswani told Hindustan Times on phone from Indore, where he lives with his wife and son.

In his PIL, which was first heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir in April 2013, Vaswani tried to put forward what he described as the “harmful effects” of pornography, especially child pornography.

His petition challenged the effectiveness of the Information Technology Act of 2000 in dealing with pornography. Section 67 of the law criminalises “publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form” but not accessing it.

Vaswani’s petition said: “Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women.”

He believes watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women. Watching porn also promotes sexual violence against women and children, he said.

“My fight has been against obscenity. I feel watching porn fuels violence against women. It propels men to commit sex crimes. I saw no women come forward and speak up against pornography, so I did it,” he said.

But then research says women too watch and enjoy porn.

“I do not think these reports and data are authentic. To say Indian women watch porn is an insult to their dignity. Some may watch but it's not right to authoritatively comment on it and publish reports," Vaswani said.

Asked whether he could cite evidence to prove his theory on the link between porn and violence, Vaswani said: “Just look around you and there are evidences. Rapes and gang-rapes are happening all over. In some cases, the accused have even accepted watching pornographic film before attacking women.”

Moreover, he doesn’t believe in any of the international research that contends watching porn and crimes against women aren’t linked. “I do not agree with those research works. Let the court of law decide,” he said.

In his petition, Vaswani wrote, “Pornography creates stereotypes representation of women (sic) and becomes the basis behind unequal treatment of women in society.”

He said watching or banning porn must be decided according to the law of the land and not individual choices.

“Watching porn is like taking narcotic drugs. If you say you like having drugs, can the country’s law allow it?” Vaswani asked.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/8/Vaswani.jpg

Vaswani said this photograph was taken at the BJP head office in New Delhi when he had gone there to attempt a discussion with the party officials and explain his stand on the issue of online pornography in September last year. The discussion, however, never took place.



As civil society activists criticised the ban on porn as a curb on individual freedom, communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stepped in to clarify that it was not an attempt at "Talibanisation" of the internet but a move based on the Supreme Court’s observations while hearing Vaswani’s petition.



During a hearing of the petition in August 2014, the government admitted it is difficult to block porn sites because there were around 40 million websites and on blocking one, a new one popped up.



Last month, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu the government will soon do whatever is possible about banning pornographic sites.



Vaswani said after the media published reports on his petition, some people had criticised him for his campaign.



"Have I done anything wrong? Anything illegal? I have just followed the course of the country's law. Let the Supreme Court say if watching porn is allowed or not."

Vaswani had attempted to talk with the BJP regarding his movement, but the meeting never took place.

"After BJP won the 2014 Assembly elections, I felt I should have a chat with the new leaders about my movement. I went to the BJP headquarters in Delhi but the meeting never took place because the officials present at the office informed me that no senior leaders were available. I have no connection with the BJP," he said.

"Yet people have dug up this photo from my Facebook profile and are now alleging that I'm influenced by the ideology of the BJP. I'm a simple advocate. I do not have any political ambition or connection."

Vaswani’s petition has long sections on how watching porn can ruin people’s understanding of sex and fuel sex crimes, but on being asked what he thinks of youngsters and sex in general, he refused to comment.

Aap journalist hain. Woh samajhna aapka kaam hai. (You’re a journalist. It’s your job to comment on youngsters’ understanding of sex),” he said.

(The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990 )

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