Will the ban on pornography curb sexual abuse?

Will a ban on all pornography on the internet, making it a non-bailable offense, prevent sexual abuse or will it become a censorship tool?


A large number of PILs in India are being used by a socially-aware activist judiciary to force the executive to address various areas of citizens’ rights, ranging from systemic responses to sexual assault, safety for women, wages for domestic workers, tribal land rights and care and protection of children.

Newspaper reports are discussing a new PIL. At the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir has sent out notices to the ministries of IT, I & B, Home Affairs and to the Internet Service Providers Association of India, based on a petition to look into an anti-pornography law along with a plea to block and ban pornographic sites on the Internet, especially the ones depicting child pornography. The ministries reply is awaited.

The questions which need to be answered:

Does watching adult pornography increase sexual assaults, on women, children, transgenders and men?

How does child pornography differ from adult pornography?

Will banning internet pornography or blocking sites reduce the access to pornography?

Is it possible to prevent the dissemination of pornography on the internet through legislations or by criminalising it?

Sexual assaults are primarily a deviant sexual behaviour, supported by the silence around sexuality, and by social constructs which allow the perpetrator to escape the consequences of his/her action while stigmatising the victim. Sexual assaults are rampant in any patriarchal society where a woman’s sexuality is curtailed by strict social norms and her worth is based on being attached to a single male partner throughout her lifetime. On the other hand, male sexuality as a sign of manhood, is revered and /or feared, and allowed free expression even at the expense of others.

Adult perpetrators of sexual abuse are often found to commit domestic violence, substance abuse or animal abuse, showing the psychodynamics involved especially of power and emotional disconnect from victims. Is this dysfunctional craving to abuse someone weaker than one self fed by pornography? Studies show that almost all abusers have watched pornography, yet studies also show that only a miniscule number of people who watch pornography ever sexually abuse another or try to act it out with an unwilling partner.

More disturbingly, recent studies show that more than 40% of child sexual abusers are juvenile offenders. Their reasons are often experimentation and errors in judgement; they do not realise the extent to which their actions affect their victims. The juvenile’s knowledge of sexual acts in a society where speaking about sex is taboo, is definitely fueled by exposure to the media, whether sexually titillating advertisements, ‘item numbers’ in movies, or pornography. Which should we ban, just one or all? And again, the juvenile’s attitude to respect for personal boundaries and upholding the dignity of another is derived directly from the attitudes of the adults around him or her.

Adult pornography is a thriving business, presumably filmed by adults using consenting adults (in most cases) who are paid to act out fantasies for the pleasure of frustrated adults in a sexually repressed society. Similar to attitudes towards sex workers, it creates an apparent feeling of revulsion. As behaviour it is socially questionable, but is it criminal?

Child pornography on the other hand is irrevocably a crime, using a child for the sexual gratification of viewers, forcing a child to participate in an act for which the child is emotionally and developmentally unprepared, causing permanent damage to the victim. Traumatic sexualisation, helplessness, and a lasting sense of shame and guilt is the common result. The effects of this child sexual abuse is life long and cascades through generations by resulting in dysfunctional adults. Those who produce child pornography are certainly criminals, but no less than those who watch it. Both need legal action and punishment.

The final question is not the number of laws or the quantum of punishment which may act as a deterrent to the crime but the certainty and speed of punishment. In this area, our Indian legal systems have failed the common people again and again. Will it be possible to ban all internet pornography, or will the ban allow only the rich and powerful to access it with immunity and create a new moneyspinner, a black market in pornography, controlled by politically blessed mafia? Will the laws be used to harass a painter or a web-designer or a graphic artist who perceives the human body as naturally beautiful and depicts it as such? Who will decide what constitutes as art, sexuality education or pornography?

How will legal safeguards prevent misuse of the law for petty political and religious gains like in cases of Khushboo in Chennai, two girls on the internet in Thane, a girl’s band in Kashmir, a professor in West Bengal, a youth health advocacy group in Himachal Pradesh and countless journalists, writers and activists who voice their opinions against any violation of human rights online. Will an anti-pornography law be used to gag such voices?

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Shaibya Saldanha is the co-founder of Enfold Trust (http://www.enfoldindia.org/) in Bangalore, who has conducted several workshops with children and young adults on gender and sexuality. more

   FOLLOW US

   SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
  Top Stories on TA






  Top Stories in LIFESTYLE






   Get stories like this in your inbox

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Shaibya Saldanha is the co-founder of Enfold Trust (http://www.enfoldindia.org/) in Bangalore, who has conducted several workshops with children and young adults on gender and sexuality. more

Discuss this article on Facebook

  • SSoz

    It may be interesting to compare the extent of sexual crimes in more gender equal societies and where sexuality is not coerced to be clandestine. Going by trends from countries like Netherlands, where sexual activity is promoted by the state, or the usual western democracies where pornography is largely consensual, it seems that the proliferation of pornography is an effect rather than cause. Would this article be followed by a more prescriptive piece?

  • Lalit Desai

    And what about the soft pornography
    / masala content like bikini pictures, wardrobe malfunction, cleavage pictures
    of actresses which we can access through glorified mainstream websites/media
    like facebook, youtube,indiatimes,yahoo,daily motion etc. ? Is it illegal to watch any porn through these sources ? Or these media are illegal ?