Friday, 18 September 2015 11:56

India’s order to block 857 websites

India’s order to block 857 websites

By: manithoi meitei

 

In December 2012, the nation woke up to the horrific story of a gang rape which led to the death of the victim. People rose up in violent protest demanding an end to the crime of rape in Delhi. One man Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer from Indore, decided to take up research to look into the cause of such heinous crime of rape. He concluded his research with the note “Most rapists watch pornography”. He filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) listing nearly 850 porn websites to be banned in India. The Supreme Court responded by directing the government to devise ways to act against child pornography. The Government Department of telecommunications reacted by blocking access to 857 websites hosting pornographic content.

The Government was in for a shock at the level and scale of outrage the netizens of India unleashed. People took to it as an act of moral policing and violation of an individual’s right to personal liberty (Article 21) though invasion of privacy. Many hash tags started cropping up as protest against the ban. Through #NextBanIdea, people vented their anger and even suggested hilarious and absurd counter ban ideas. Facebook was filled with updates on alternative porn websites still not banned by the Government. Popular novelist, Chetan Bhagat tweeted that the porn ban was anti-freedom, impractical and not enforceable. Some came out in support of the ban stating that there is nothing private about porn. It is made for public consumption and hence, should be regulated by public authority, of which banning it is a part of the regulation.

The aftermath of the ban was the opposite of what the government strived for. Porn DVD sales boomed and the prices of ‘MMS’ collection DVDs and standard porn DVDs skyrocketed to as high as Rs. 500 per DVD. Long queues were reported in front of DVD parlors and shops. On the other hand, Google reported an increased search of porn related keywords coming from India. This can be summed up as the government move backfiring. A week and a half later, the Government changed its stand and partially revoked the ban. But it reiterated its decision to completely ban online child pornography.

There are several reasons why ‘porn ban in India’ is bound to fail and even if it succeeds, will be very much limited in scale. It is virtually impossible to completely ban porn as most of the websites are hosted outside India. Plentiful availability of proxy websites and softwares easily allows a user to bypass restrictions and circumvent the web. On top of that, porn sites are in millions. A little more research is all that is needed. The presence of the ‘Deep Web’ where anonymous websites host all kinds of porn is extremely difficult to track down, let alone blocking it. Moreover, the ISPs are unhappy with the entire responsibility of filtering the web and blocking specific websites, thrown upon them by the government. It led to lots of confusion and criticism.

 

At the end a question arises, was it justified for the government to make such a move? If not, then where is the solution?

The move of the government should be seen in its spirit. Although such a blanket ban can only be seen as an infringement of our fundamental rights, it is definitely a step towards fighting the menace of child pornography. Porn has penetrated deep into our society but it’s not a contemporary problem. Porn used to be there since ancient times, Kamasutra being the best example. Visual stimulation in the form of videos is just an addition to its ever-growing definition. Then what is needed here. The problem we are facing can be zeroed down to the early age of exposure and the psychological effects it can create in molding the personality of a person. The sadomasochistic tendency in most of the porn videos may also be a contributor. But if we are properly sensitized about sex and the cultural differences in its understanding along with better understanding of the other sex, it can save our youth from sexual degradation and promote healthy relationships. Sex education at all levels, from early high school to work environment, seems to be the way out.

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