'Applying a law from 1947 to the current generation is a joke on us already'

Updated: Jun 29, 2019, 08:17 IST | Faizan Khan |

Co-founder of US-based online adult store says the Indian government could earn over a thousand crore if it chooses to regularise the sex toy market

Despite being the land which gifted the world the Kamasutra, India continues to make a 'big deal about silly rubber and silicone products', said Raj Armani, co-founder of the US-based online adult store IMBesharam, whose largest clientele are Indian customers.

Raising questions against the 'conservative' enforcers of the archaic British law dictating obscenity and vague categorization of sex toys, Armani said the government could earn thousands of crores if it chooses to regularise the market.

Selling and manufacturing sex toys is illegal in India. What do you have to say about this?
This statement has a few parts which need to be addressed separately and accurately. According to Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, if the product is obscene [as defined by the Indian Constitution — a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the pruri­ent interest or if its effect, or (where it comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items, is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt person] the sale, marketing and distribution of that product is illegal. This law was taken from the British Constitution and was specifically designed to address obscenity in paintings and erotic literature. At that time, they had no idea about the internet, porn or sex toys, which will eventually come in as per the society's demands. So, applying a law from 1947 to the current generation is a joke on us already. So if a product is deemed as obscene, as per the above definition, unfortunately, the sale and manufacturing of such products would be clearly illegal in India. Even though this archaic law was gifted to us by the British when they left, they revised their laws and caught up with the times, while we, the nation that gave birth to Kamasutra, that is the second largest consumer of porn and is the second-most populous country in the world makes a big deal about silly rubber and silicone products.

Is the label or categorisation of a product as a 'sex toy' used accurately?
The customs and import authorities in Mumbai and at all other ports use this label vaguely and unreasonably, primarily if their moral sensibilities tell them so. They get offended by the mere sight of any product that has to do with a sexual organ, no matter if it is a clinical aid for patients who are trying to conceive or it is being used to cure a sexual deficiency or problem that is faced by many Indians. There is no clear logic in the way they categorize sex toys; if it means a toy to be used for sex, then condoms and c-rings are sex toys as well. How come they are being sold across every departmental and medical store in India?

What are the difficulties you face due to such laws?
When we started our brand, seven years ago, we researched for a year on the laws, spoke with customs officers, consultants and lawyers who have dealt with import and business of adult products, and while there was no clarity on the law, almost all of them agreed that due to its ambiguity, it's important not to do business in India and thus not conform to the country's laws. There is always a chance, in the face of these uncertainties, of the authorities using their subjective implication of the language of the law, which could sabotage the business in India. However, India has our largest client base. We have heard of many Indian citizens, who ordered [sex toys] from Amazon and other websites internationally, being ridiculed and embarrassed at the hands of customs authorities. They were asked to go to their offices, write statements, show prescriptions and even after that, the products were confiscated.

Many dealers claim they ship these products discreetly. What do they courier the products as?
We have agents in China and India who import the products in India in containers, so we are not sure what they ship/import them as.

What is your calculation of the sex toy market in India?
As per a financial daily, the Indian sex toy market is going to hit R9,000 crore in 2020. I think the demand is much more than that. If the government regulates this sector and collects taxes and import duties, they can earn at least R1,500 crore from this industry. But, it just doesn't understand its priorities; instead of attending to real crimes and hardships, it uses its valuable resources in censoring the lives of its citizens.

Is the market restricted to metro cities?
As per our analytics, 61 per cent of the traffic comes from metros, which contributes to 58 per cent in sales, while 38 per cent traffic comes from Tier 1, 2, 3 cities and adds to 42 per cent sales. The notably strong non-metros are Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mangalore, Ernakulum, Chandigarh and Warangal.

What kind of demands do you get from customers?
Lately, we have seen many women customers, thanks to increasing awareness due to movies like Lust Stories, Veere Di Wedding and Lipstick Under My Burkha and web series like Four More Shots Please. They want us to ship to their honeymoon hotels, they want stronger and bigger dildos and they ask for products to be used between women as well as the famous
Sybian sex machine which retails at Rs 4,50,000.

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