India’s Anti-Porn Strategy: ‘All Possible Measures’

IndiaCensorshipNEW DELHI – You know the old saying: “When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems become big, swollen fingers with shattered nails, because let’s face it, you suck at swinging a hammer.”

Along these lines, the powers that be in India have decided it’s time to bring down their collective hammer on the sore thumb of their justice system, so unsatisfied are they with the ongoing efforts of various subordinate authorities to block, screen and filter online porn out of existence within the Indian corner of cyberspace.

In response to pointed questions from an angry Supreme Court Justice, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told India’s high court his office “will do whatever is possible” to block pornographic websites from being accessed in the country, according to local media accounts.

In a petition submitted to the court, plaintiffs complained the central government had failed to create an effective means of blocking pornographic content and argued a lack of new laws specifically criminalizing online porn has encouraged people to indulge.

“The sexual content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive and has put entire society in danger, so also safety threats to public order in India,” the petition states. “The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offenses committed against women/girls/children are fueled by pornography.”

While the Indian governmental statistics indicate the crime of rape is indeed on the rise in India, articles reporting the issue often neglect another bit of information that seems relevant: Prior to 2013, in order for a sex crime to be considered rape, it had to involve penetration and intercourse. Statutory changes made in 2013 greatly expanded the definition and scope of the crime, resulting in a predictable increase in the number of cases reported. Even so, the rate of incidence remains far lower than it is in many other countries — including the U.S.

Even in the cesspool of wanton sexual decadence that is America, porn is a ready and waiting scapegoat for societal ills, so it’s no surprise to see it treated as an even more troublesome boogeyman in a socially conservative culture like India’s. What isn’t much different between the U.S. and India, though, is technology and human nature, and the way the two interact.

If India’s government really intends to do “whatever is possible” to combat the scourge of pornography, and this broad palette of potential actions includes adopting the recommendations of the petition that kicked off the current shitstorm between the Supreme Court and the central government, they had better start building a lot of new prisons.

Among other things, the new petition advocates making watching and/or sharing pornographic videos a “cognizable offense,” meaning police can arrest offenders without any manner of warrant. Reclassifying porn-watching as a cognizable offense also would render the crime punishable by serious jail time. In India, cognizable offenses generally carry a sentence of greater than three years.

The petitioners don’t stop there, however. They also want porn watching to be an offense for which the accused cannot receive bail. In other words, if this proposal were to be adopted, India would start treating offenders who emailed each other Pornhub links like members of the Mafia caught red-handed arranging a mob hit. Petitioners advocate keeping alleged offenders locked up in anticipation of trial rather than allowing them back out into the public sphere, where they might — you know — immediately destroy the world by watching more porn.

All of this might sound a bit remote and irrelevant to those who don’t live, work or consume porn in India, but if you’ve ever delved into your traffic stats in any detail, you’ve probably noticed you get more than a little traffic from that neck of the woods. Call me crazy, or just naively over-concerned with the fates of people with whom I’ll never directly interact, but yes, it does bother me to think of some poor Indian schmuck rotting away in a dank prison cell simply because he had the audacity to watch — or, God forbid, share — a pornographic video residing on one of my sites.

What can be done about it? Not much, most likely. But I don’t need a reason, much less some manner of proposed solution tucked away in my front pocket, in order to roll my office chair up to the keyboard and type, “This sucks, India.”

Hopefully, this latest round of Indian governmental porn freak-out will fade from the headlines without any drastic changes in law or policy going into effect. Hopefully, the central government can just cook up some UK-style content-filtering regime, one that is easily circumvented by determined local porn fans, and call it a day.

If not, if India really follows through with the more severe proposals in this new petition…. Well, Band-Aid is the go-to brand for finger bandages in India, too.

 

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Ben Suroeste

Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of pen names) since 2002.

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