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Porn ban debate: 'Is govt curbing our individual freedom?'

Users of social media platforms too have lashed out against the government’s move to ban more than 850 porn websites, using wit and humour to defend an individual’s right to watch pornography in the privacy of his home.

india Updated: Aug 03, 2015 21:15 IST
Abhishek Saha
Study-found-that-93-of-boys-and-62-of-girls-in-the-US-were-exposed-to-online-pornography-during-their-adolescence
Study-found-that-93-of-boys-and-62-of-girls-in-the-US-were-exposed-to-online-pornography-during-their-adolescence

Hindustan Times asked its readers whether there should be a ban on pornography on the internet and the votes are in: A majority of them voted against a ban.

Users of social media platforms too have lashed out against the government’s move to ban more than 850 porn websites, using wit and humour to defend an individual’s right to watch pornography in the privacy of his home.

Nearly 67% of 6,500 Hindustan Times readers who voted said the government’s decision to ask internet service providers (ISPs) to block adult sites was not justified. A meagre 31% said there should be a ban on online porn in India. The rest did not have a position on the matter.

ISPs confirmed on Sunday they had received orders from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to block 857 porn websites. Since Saturday night, users on several ISPs have complained that porn sites were inaccessible and they were led to a blank page.

On Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, users did not mince words while criticising the ban. Of all their concerns, here are five comments that sum up the mood of users of Twitter and Reddit.

Government or SC order?

Reddit user Solitude85 wrote this: “Why people are blaming the government? Isn't this a SC order, in regards to a petition filed by someone?”

Information technology secretary RS Sharma told Hindustan Times that the ministry was following the Supreme Court’s directives in an ongoing case that related to a petition filed in 2013 by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani against adult websites.

Vaswani sought a ban of all pornographic material on the internet. When the petition came up for hearing in August last year, it triggered a larger debate on internet pornography and whether the government could effectively restrict it, considering the vastness and technicalities of the worldwide web.

The petition reportedly said pornography is “worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic”.

Is the government curbing our individual freedom?

Congress leader and former telecom minister Milind Deora tweeted: “The latest ban is not about liking or disliking porn. It's about government hijacking personal liberties. What'll they ban next – phones & TVs?”

Deora’s comment brought to the fore an important facet of the debate – by blocking websites, is the government curbing our individual freedom?



While hearing Vaswani’s petition last month, Chief Justice HL Dattu had asked, “It is an issue for the government to deal with? Can we pass an interim order directing blocking of all adult websites? And let us keep in mind the possible contention of a person who could ask what crime have I committed by browsing adult websites in private within the four walls of my house. Could he not argue about his right to freedom to do something within the four walls of his house without violating any law?”



Apart from Deora, others commented that the ban on online pornography, coming right after a ban of beef in the BJP-ruled states of Maharashtra and Haryana, showcases how Hindu right-wing parties are propagating their conservative ideologies through state policy.



Journalist Sidharth Bhatia, an editor of the online news portal thewire.in, tweeted: “The thought behind ban on beef and ban on porn is the same.”


Porn related to rapes?

Reddit user Vizzmay asked: “Is there a study proving "porn equals to increase of rapes"?”

One of Vaswani’s arguments in his petition was that “seeing images of people having sex makes men want to commit rape and other crimes such as sex-trafficking”.

Much of the debate on porn is triggered by a perception that watching it promotes sexism and violence against women. Some research works say that since most pornographic content portrays women primarily as objects of male satisfaction, it aggravates sexual aggression against women.

However, there exists another set of arguments that pornography doesn’t necessarily lead to violence against women. In fact, most studies agree that exposure to mainstream non-hardcore pornography doesn’t affect people in a drastic way. But prolonged exposure to abusive and fetishist pornography affects minds and psychology, experts say.

The article “The Sunny Side of Smut”, published by Scientific American in 2011, explained these viewpoints in a lucid manner.

Knowledge about hidden networks

Twitter user @oldschoolmonk wrote: “#Pornban is a step by govt to increase computer literacy. People would now learn the use of VPN, proxies, file sharing technologies etc”

Commentators and internet experts say blocking 850-odd porn sites is not an effective method to block access to online pornography and wonder if there is a way to block such sites. There is the question of pornographic content being uploaded from foreign servers beyond the purview of Indian enforcing agencies and then there is the usage of VPNs and proxies.

(The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990)

Read |Four things you always wanted to know about watching porn

List of 800 porn sites blocked: