Ban on porn : Let's debate before deciding

 Stay out of our bedrooms, living rooms and computer screens

The Internet’s a-buzz, Twitter’s a-twitter, and outrage is pouring in, from several quarters. The cause and the target? The reported action of the Government of India, in ‘asking Telecom Operators and Internet Service Providers to block 857 porn sites’.

Rumours are flying around, but hard facts are difficult to come by, including inter alia the notification, if any, ordering such ban / blockage. Nor does it appear certain, which are these 857 sites. Apparently, the Chief Justice of India had expressed certain reservations about just such a ban, when on July 9, the Government asked for an interim order to block pornographic websites, reportedly stating: “Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court.

Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 ...” On what basis the government has, in its wisdom, issued such an order if it has so issued is then a mystery! Hopefully, the Government will explain, clarify and make known its stand and reasons.

Hear
Hopefully, before that, the Government will initiate a debate, and listen to reasons and views other than its own, and make an informed decision, after taking into consideration, the views of others i.e., neutral parties, with no stake in the matter, except, of course, concerns about individual freedoms, personal liberty, and the desire to protect those from encroachment by the State.

This article does not attempt to get into legalities, or to analyze the law or legal judgements on this or any point. This article attempts rather, to analyze the wisdom of such a ban, as also the practicalities of enforcement and implementation thereof. It also aims to caution how such a ban could have tremendous potential for misuse and discrimination.

It hopes to suggest alternative methods, by which the intent behind such a ban, if indeed the intent is bonafide, could be met, by other means, without a blanket ban which would not only be difficult to monitor and implement fairly and impartially, but which would have the additional disadvantage of being misused against even innocent persons. Moreover, which would have the potential of being enforced selectively, with the possibility of discriminating to settle scores.

Bedrooms
What an adult does behind closed doors is his / her business, within reason. The government would do well to stay out of bedrooms, as also living rooms, and now, also computer screens!

That is not to say that child porn is to be encouraged, and no action taken, when it is brought to the notice of the authorities. The rights of the child are indeed paramount, and deserve protection. But is banning so-called ‘porn sites’ the answer?

This is an easy, and lazy, way out! What the government needs to do is to crack down on paedophiles and child pornographers in real, not virtual life! The virtual would not exist without the real. Also, there are means of dissemination, beyond internet sites. If the government is serious about stamping out child pornography, it needs to address the problem at its root.

Dangers
There are dangers galore, in these kind of blanket, sweeping bans and blocks. What is pornography itself could be and would be debated ad nauseum, given diverse subjective opinions, which would just not admit to a uniform objectivity. This is so much a product of one’s upbringing, education, conditioning, as also inherent inclination and individual mindset. Someone’s harmless joke could be for someone else, prurient porn.

Ditto with the vexed problem of defining ‘sexual harassment’ a compliment to some would be sexual harassment to others. So, who decides? Would decisions be unanimous, and/or even consistent? Would even two persons in the government be able to agree on what is porn, and what is not? What of sexual orientation? Does this also qualify as ‘porn’? Sexual kinks, divergent sexual mores, adult content viewed to get over sexual dysfunction, perhaps even advised / prescribed by doctors / psychiatrists / sexologists … ???

How would such a ban / block be monitored? Why 857 sites? What if new sites spring up? What if methods of dissemination of such content get more ingenious, and ahead of enforcement? Will the government keep adding to the number of ‘blocked’ sites on a daily basis? will it be able to monitor, and enforce, when it is unable to enforce and implement extant laws and even Judgements of the Court, yes, even of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India?

The Government cannot even ensure motorists do not break red lights on the roads (Of course, this had to come in! J ) Does it have the resources and the personnel, and even the expertise to ensure / enforce bans / blocks uniformly and fairly against all truly pornographic content? Or will this become just another tool for harassment, in the hands of the powers-that-be?

Rather than such blanket bans, it would be better if the Government invested in mechanism/s to have proper, transparent grievance cell/s, to address individual complaints. The Government can protect the populace, while leaving them their liberty. Address our grievances and complaints, Mesdames and Sirs, stay out of our houses, and our computers. Please do yourselves this favour, too!

The writer is a counsel in the High Court and author of several fiction and travel books

Voices

Sonal Panchal (23), television marketing executive
The freedom of digital media to access anything and everything available on the public platform cannot be curbed. It is completely unfair to restrict the rights of people if they are accessing porn in their house or in private.

Rahul Hadge (26), professional
Banning the display of porn content in public is completely understandable but to stop one from watching it one’s home, does not make sense. On the other hand, when some Bollywood movies are more or less soft porn, this ban on internet access is just another excuse to exercise power.

Rushabh Shah (20), T P Bhatia College, second year science student
It is a good decision, as teenagers often tend to lose concentration and get addicted to porn, which harms them personally and socially. I welcome the move.

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1 Comments

  • PlugInCaroo08-Aug-2015

    Now BJP are trying to control even how and where people have sex... by raiding hotels and claiming "public indecency"How can it be public indecency if they are inside a hotel??!!??And what right does the police have from couples from going out with their fiancees? I was never a congress fan but In one year of BJP rule... I am missing Congess big time

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