Recently, an order by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) asked ISPs to ban 857 websites in India, the majority of which were porn websites. In compliance with the order most of the ISPs banned these websites, which ultimately caused the liberal sections of the society to raise a hue and cry. This order came on the sidelines of a petition filed by an Indore based lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani before the Supreme Court. It was criticised as a step to intrude in the private life of citizens and yet another form of moral policing by a conservative government which had earlier banned beef and the BBC documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’.
The scale of opposition to this order was unsurprising as it was a clear cut attack on the fundamental rights of citizens. It was as a result of this widespread criticism that the government had to withdraw its prior instructions and clarify that they intended to ban only the websites with child pornography. The government stated, before the bench of the apex court, that it did not intend to become the moral police.
It is great to see that the government has finally realized that it cannot act in a totalitarian manner. There is no doubt that India is progressing and no form of blanket ban can succeed in this age of internet. Even if the government had imposed a ban on pornographic sites, people would have found other ways to watch porn.
It, however, points towards the need to formulate and implement effective rules and regulations in order to ensure that the youth does not get addicted to pornographic and sexually explicit content. There is a need to provide sex education in schools like never before.
Pornography has been seen as objectifying women and, in some instances, has lead to violent sexual behavior among youngsters. It is only through education that we can ensure that individuals are self-regulating beings because no form of any ban can wholly put an end to access to porn by the youth, particularly children. Moreover, it needs to be ensured that people who join the porn industry are adults and do so voluntarily rather than under some kind of force because only then exploitation can be stopped – requires bringing the porn industry under legal jurisdiction by providing it with legal status, so as to implement necessary restrictions.
Finally, it can be said that porn, like anything else, is acceptable, provided that it is within certain limits. As long as nobody is exploited and it is watched in the privacy of four walls without it leading one to harm another individual, the state has no right to put a blanket ban, especially in a country like India which aspires to be a world power one day.