Culture

After The Porn Ban, Is It Legal To Watch Porn In India?

People have easily circumvented the 2018 porn ban in India with VPNs and proxies. But can we be legally penalised for accessing these banned sites?

We love to hate it and malign it in the public eye, however, in private, most of us find ourselves drawn to taboo pornographic content for its titillating imagery and ability to provide sexual relief. However, even if you consume it regularly, it’s highly unlikely you’d talk about it with your friends, let alone publicly take a stand on it, indicating a sense of shame and reluctance about the subject. The main reason behind this hesitancy could be the moral dilemma around pornographic content, and people's unwillingness to engage in conversations about sexuality and sex due to the fear of being judged for their preferences. Moving on from personal preferences, when we examine the production of porn, consent becomes paramount, which shifts the conversation from morality to the legality of porn. This aspect is far more serious and less contentious.

There's pornographic content that is disturbing and illegal such as child porn and rape and then there's content that is legal to watch. The porn ban in India, cancelled both, legal and illegal pornographic content, meaning people in India were barred from viewing the so-called acceptable pornographic content that's legal in other countries. The Indian government justified the ban by weaving a narrative that portrayed porn as a wicked force in society corrupting young minds and most concerningly, causing sex crimes.

It has been 2 years since the second porn ban in India, the first attempt was in 2015 but turned out to be short-lived and ultimately, unsuccessful. The second ban came with greater force but maintained a shoddy implementation as most regular consumers of adult content have hacked the ban through a virtual private network (VPN) or a mirror site. The porn ban has led to people becoming craftier and sneakier in order to view arousing content but has it fulfilled its purpose?

Why did the government consider banning pornographic websites, to begin with?

To understand the rationale behind the porn ban in India and its current status, we need to revisit the history of the ban.

The history of the porn ban

The story goes back to 2013 when an advocate, Kamlesh Vaswani filed Public Interest Litigation asking the court to block pornographic websites in India. According to the Hindustan Times, he had earlier argued that the court should step in and pass an interim order to ban these adult sites from the internet in India as they promote violence towards women and encourage sex crimes. His petition read:

“Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women and he believes watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women.” as reported in the Newsgram.

In his report, he had claimed that there were 4 crore websites with adult content in the country which needed to shut down. In the beginning, the ban seemed far-fetched as the government stated their inability to implement the ban on adult websites’ servers that were located outside the homeland. With this significant logistical issue, the odds seemed to be with the pro-porn agenda rather than the anti-porn sentiment.

In July 2015, even the Supreme Court of India, the highest constitutional court, made a statement saying viewing pornography indoors in the privacy of one’s home is perfectly legal and doesn’t count as a criminal offence. Once again exhibiting how most signs pointed to the government dropping the idea of a porn ban.

However, quite the opposite happened as in August 2015, the Indian government banned access to 857 porn sites and instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to issue an order to internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to these 857 adult sites, as reported by the Newsgram. The decision was executed quietly in hopes of the ban passing smoothly however, it sparked a thundering outrage all over the country. Citizens took to social media to criticize the BJP government’s decision. Even notable people like Ram Gopal Varma, a director, threw sarcasm at the government with his comment - “To ban porn saying it will be seen by who shouldn't see it is like saying to stop traffic because there will be accidents.” Others were more of humourous and cheeky digs at the government much like this tweet, “Stop crying over the #PornBan. The government will make sure that you get fucked.” FirstPost even published an opinion piece titled, “Indian govt's porn ban is empty, illusory measure; tackling sexual assault needs real intent and action” presenting a long critique of the porn ban. Subsequently, the government rescinded its decision a week later and only held up the ban for child pornography sites.

The issue had appeared to die down with the rescindment of the ban, however, three years later, the porn ban was revived and was making headlines once again. On October 27 of 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed five of the largest Internet Service Providers of India to ban 827 pornographic websites from their network.

The 2018 ban was triggered by horrific reports of four boys that gang-raped a 16-year-old girl after luring her to a storeroom on the false pretext of preparation for Independence Day celebrations for their school. The case was initially kept secret by the school to avoid any accountability but eventually, the case became public in September. When interrogated, one of the boys revealed that the idea of rape came to him after watching porn on his mobile phone. Based on this incident, in September the Uttarakhand High Court re-appealed to the government for the porn ban to be implemented again. The court said, “unlimited access to pornographic sites should be curbed to avoid adverse influence on the impressionable minds of children.”

That may be the case but if the porn ban was really the solution is still to be studied. The after-effects of the porn ban and porn accessibility among adolescents in India hasn’t been evaluated yet so we have no evidence to prove the efficacy of the ban.

Nevertheless, major telecom companies like Jio, Airtel and Vodaphone banned and still continue to ban pornography websites from their network till date, you can still find them on google searches but most ISPs will display a page that read “YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO ACCESS THIS WEB PAGE AS PER THE DoT COMPLIANCE”.

Pornhub had created a mirror website in response to the ban

Predictably, Pornhub was against the porn ban and said that it will pose a risk for Indian users as they will venture on to untrusted websites with unregulated content as reported in the Independent.

Corey Price, VP, Pornhub made very outspoken claims about India and its problem with sexual violence against women, "There are no laws against pornography in India and watching adult content privately. It’s evident that the Indian government does not have a solution to a very serious and systemic problem in the country, and is using adult sites like ours as a scapegoat,”

Pornhub was visibly offended by the ban, after all, a huge amount of traffic that they receive is from Indians. “This is apparent by the fact that they only banned large sites like Pornhub’s, and didn’t block thousands of risky porn sites that may contain illegal content." Price said.

"For the government to ban sites like ours that have compliant parental controls, a non-consensual take down page and a strict Terms of Service is a disservice to the people of India, who have become one of the largest connoisseurs of adult content," he continued.

Will you be penalised for accessing banned websites?

For the world’s third-biggest porn-watching nation (after the US and the UK) this ban was a hard pill to swallow. Indians, however, found a jugaad (short-cuts) around the porn site ban by using VPNs, DNS server change, proxies, which deemed the ban unsuccessful in stopping them from watching porn. With these easy technological hacks, you may have fooled the system, but are you fooling the government too? Moreover, is there a chance for you to be penalized for accessing banned porn websites?

There are two answers to this question. Yes, if you're visiting websites that displays child porn as watching or promoting child pornography is a serious criminal offence in India. But no, if you're visiting an adult website that holds legally permissible porn content but is blocked in India. For example, using a VPN to access XVideos or Pornhub won't get you in legal trouble as long as you're watching them at home.

The thing is that the onus of implementing the ban is on the service provider and not on you, the user. So, if you've found a way around the system to watch legal porn content, you're in safe waters. However, if a service provider like Airtel or Jio fails to ban adult websites in accordance with the DoT's orders, it can lose its license as a consequence.

Despite the ban still in place, a report by Times of India stated that during the initial months of lockdown, the average increase in porn-watching from India was 33%, three times that of the average rise worldwide which saw an increase of 10.5%. Clearly, the porn ban has hardly deterred Indians from viewing porn.

Although Vaswani's intention to tackle crimes against women is noble, the actions may too superficial for a problem that is layers deep. It’s true that porn may have the ability to propagate a distorted image of sexual intercourse as it’s often viewed by impressionable teens but according to BBC’s analysis of a series of research studies on the same, the correlation between porn and sexual violence is mostly inconclusive. Moreover, the prevalence of sexism and rape culture is far greater and seeps in more of our daily interactions compared to our exposure to porn. So, a better start would be to first, address visible and daily instances of misogyny and objectification of women before addressing people’s porn preferences.

Culture

After The Porn Ban, Is It Legal To Watch Porn In India?

People have easily circumvented the 2018 porn ban in India with VPNs and proxies. But can we be legally penalised for accessing these banned sites?

We love to hate it and malign it in the public eye, however, in private, most of us find ourselves drawn to taboo pornographic content for its titillating imagery and ability to provide sexual relief. However, even if you consume it regularly, it’s highly unlikely you’d talk about it with your friends, let alone publicly take a stand on it, indicating a sense of shame and reluctance about the subject. The main reason behind this hesitancy could be the moral dilemma around pornographic content, and people's unwillingness to engage in conversations about sexuality and sex due to the fear of being judged for their preferences. Moving on from personal preferences, when we examine the production of porn, consent becomes paramount, which shifts the conversation from morality to the legality of porn. This aspect is far more serious and less contentious.

There's pornographic content that is disturbing and illegal such as child porn and rape and then there's content that is legal to watch. The porn ban in India, cancelled both, legal and illegal pornographic content, meaning people in India were barred from viewing the so-called acceptable pornographic content that's legal in other countries. The Indian government justified the ban by weaving a narrative that portrayed porn as a wicked force in society corrupting young minds and most concerningly, causing sex crimes.

It has been 2 years since the second porn ban in India, the first attempt was in 2015 but turned out to be short-lived and ultimately, unsuccessful. The second ban came with greater force but maintained a shoddy implementation as most regular consumers of adult content have hacked the ban through a virtual private network (VPN) or a mirror site. The porn ban has led to people becoming craftier and sneakier in order to view arousing content but has it fulfilled its purpose?

Why did the government consider banning pornographic websites, to begin with?

To understand the rationale behind the porn ban in India and its current status, we need to revisit the history of the ban.

The history of the porn ban

The story goes back to 2013 when an advocate, Kamlesh Vaswani filed Public Interest Litigation asking the court to block pornographic websites in India. According to the Hindustan Times, he had earlier argued that the court should step in and pass an interim order to ban these adult sites from the internet in India as they promote violence towards women and encourage sex crimes. His petition read:

“Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women and he believes watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women.” as reported in the Newsgram.

In his report, he had claimed that there were 4 crore websites with adult content in the country which needed to shut down. In the beginning, the ban seemed far-fetched as the government stated their inability to implement the ban on adult websites’ servers that were located outside the homeland. With this significant logistical issue, the odds seemed to be with the pro-porn agenda rather than the anti-porn sentiment.

In July 2015, even the Supreme Court of India, the highest constitutional court, made a statement saying viewing pornography indoors in the privacy of one’s home is perfectly legal and doesn’t count as a criminal offence. Once again exhibiting how most signs pointed to the government dropping the idea of a porn ban.

However, quite the opposite happened as in August 2015, the Indian government banned access to 857 porn sites and instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to issue an order to internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to these 857 adult sites, as reported by the Newsgram. The decision was executed quietly in hopes of the ban passing smoothly however, it sparked a thundering outrage all over the country. Citizens took to social media to criticize the BJP government’s decision. Even notable people like Ram Gopal Varma, a director, threw sarcasm at the government with his comment - “To ban porn saying it will be seen by who shouldn't see it is like saying to stop traffic because there will be accidents.” Others were more of humourous and cheeky digs at the government much like this tweet, “Stop crying over the #PornBan. The government will make sure that you get fucked.” FirstPost even published an opinion piece titled, “Indian govt's porn ban is empty, illusory measure; tackling sexual assault needs real intent and action” presenting a long critique of the porn ban. Subsequently, the government rescinded its decision a week later and only held up the ban for child pornography sites.

The issue had appeared to die down with the rescindment of the ban, however, three years later, the porn ban was revived and was making headlines once again. On October 27 of 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed five of the largest Internet Service Providers of India to ban 827 pornographic websites from their network.

The 2018 ban was triggered by horrific reports of four boys that gang-raped a 16-year-old girl after luring her to a storeroom on the false pretext of preparation for Independence Day celebrations for their school. The case was initially kept secret by the school to avoid any accountability but eventually, the case became public in September. When interrogated, one of the boys revealed that the idea of rape came to him after watching porn on his mobile phone. Based on this incident, in September the Uttarakhand High Court re-appealed to the government for the porn ban to be implemented again. The court said, “unlimited access to pornographic sites should be curbed to avoid adverse influence on the impressionable minds of children.”

That may be the case but if the porn ban was really the solution is still to be studied. The after-effects of the porn ban and porn accessibility among adolescents in India hasn’t been evaluated yet so we have no evidence to prove the efficacy of the ban.

Nevertheless, major telecom companies like Jio, Airtel and Vodaphone banned and still continue to ban pornography websites from their network till date, you can still find them on google searches but most ISPs will display a page that read “YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO ACCESS THIS WEB PAGE AS PER THE DoT COMPLIANCE”.

Pornhub had created a mirror website in response to the ban

Predictably, Pornhub was against the porn ban and said that it will pose a risk for Indian users as they will venture on to untrusted websites with unregulated content as reported in the Independent.

Corey Price, VP, Pornhub made very outspoken claims about India and its problem with sexual violence against women, "There are no laws against pornography in India and watching adult content privately. It’s evident that the Indian government does not have a solution to a very serious and systemic problem in the country, and is using adult sites like ours as a scapegoat,”

Pornhub was visibly offended by the ban, after all, a huge amount of traffic that they receive is from Indians. “This is apparent by the fact that they only banned large sites like Pornhub’s, and didn’t block thousands of risky porn sites that may contain illegal content." Price said.

"For the government to ban sites like ours that have compliant parental controls, a non-consensual take down page and a strict Terms of Service is a disservice to the people of India, who have become one of the largest connoisseurs of adult content," he continued.

Will you be penalised for accessing banned websites?

For the world’s third-biggest porn-watching nation (after the US and the UK) this ban was a hard pill to swallow. Indians, however, found a jugaad (short-cuts) around the porn site ban by using VPNs, DNS server change, proxies, which deemed the ban unsuccessful in stopping them from watching porn. With these easy technological hacks, you may have fooled the system, but are you fooling the government too? Moreover, is there a chance for you to be penalized for accessing banned porn websites?

There are two answers to this question. Yes, if you're visiting websites that displays child porn as watching or promoting child pornography is a serious criminal offence in India. But no, if you're visiting an adult website that holds legally permissible porn content but is blocked in India. For example, using a VPN to access XVideos or Pornhub won't get you in legal trouble as long as you're watching them at home.

The thing is that the onus of implementing the ban is on the service provider and not on you, the user. So, if you've found a way around the system to watch legal porn content, you're in safe waters. However, if a service provider like Airtel or Jio fails to ban adult websites in accordance with the DoT's orders, it can lose its license as a consequence.

Despite the ban still in place, a report by Times of India stated that during the initial months of lockdown, the average increase in porn-watching from India was 33%, three times that of the average rise worldwide which saw an increase of 10.5%. Clearly, the porn ban has hardly deterred Indians from viewing porn.

Although Vaswani's intention to tackle crimes against women is noble, the actions may too superficial for a problem that is layers deep. It’s true that porn may have the ability to propagate a distorted image of sexual intercourse as it’s often viewed by impressionable teens but according to BBC’s analysis of a series of research studies on the same, the correlation between porn and sexual violence is mostly inconclusive. Moreover, the prevalence of sexism and rape culture is far greater and seeps in more of our daily interactions compared to our exposure to porn. So, a better start would be to first, address visible and daily instances of misogyny and objectification of women before addressing people’s porn preferences.

Culture

After The Porn Ban, Is It Legal To Watch Porn In India?

People have easily circumvented the 2018 porn ban in India with VPNs and proxies. But can we be legally penalised for accessing these banned sites?

We love to hate it and malign it in the public eye, however, in private, most of us find ourselves drawn to taboo pornographic content for its titillating imagery and ability to provide sexual relief. However, even if you consume it regularly, it’s highly unlikely you’d talk about it with your friends, let alone publicly take a stand on it, indicating a sense of shame and reluctance about the subject. The main reason behind this hesitancy could be the moral dilemma around pornographic content, and people's unwillingness to engage in conversations about sexuality and sex due to the fear of being judged for their preferences. Moving on from personal preferences, when we examine the production of porn, consent becomes paramount, which shifts the conversation from morality to the legality of porn. This aspect is far more serious and less contentious.

There's pornographic content that is disturbing and illegal such as child porn and rape and then there's content that is legal to watch. The porn ban in India, cancelled both, legal and illegal pornographic content, meaning people in India were barred from viewing the so-called acceptable pornographic content that's legal in other countries. The Indian government justified the ban by weaving a narrative that portrayed porn as a wicked force in society corrupting young minds and most concerningly, causing sex crimes.

It has been 2 years since the second porn ban in India, the first attempt was in 2015 but turned out to be short-lived and ultimately, unsuccessful. The second ban came with greater force but maintained a shoddy implementation as most regular consumers of adult content have hacked the ban through a virtual private network (VPN) or a mirror site. The porn ban has led to people becoming craftier and sneakier in order to view arousing content but has it fulfilled its purpose?

Why did the government consider banning pornographic websites, to begin with?

To understand the rationale behind the porn ban in India and its current status, we need to revisit the history of the ban.

The history of the porn ban

The story goes back to 2013 when an advocate, Kamlesh Vaswani filed Public Interest Litigation asking the court to block pornographic websites in India. According to the Hindustan Times, he had earlier argued that the court should step in and pass an interim order to ban these adult sites from the internet in India as they promote violence towards women and encourage sex crimes. His petition read:

“Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women and he believes watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women.” as reported in the Newsgram.

In his report, he had claimed that there were 4 crore websites with adult content in the country which needed to shut down. In the beginning, the ban seemed far-fetched as the government stated their inability to implement the ban on adult websites’ servers that were located outside the homeland. With this significant logistical issue, the odds seemed to be with the pro-porn agenda rather than the anti-porn sentiment.

In July 2015, even the Supreme Court of India, the highest constitutional court, made a statement saying viewing pornography indoors in the privacy of one’s home is perfectly legal and doesn’t count as a criminal offence. Once again exhibiting how most signs pointed to the government dropping the idea of a porn ban.

However, quite the opposite happened as in August 2015, the Indian government banned access to 857 porn sites and instructed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to issue an order to internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to these 857 adult sites, as reported by the Newsgram. The decision was executed quietly in hopes of the ban passing smoothly however, it sparked a thundering outrage all over the country. Citizens took to social media to criticize the BJP government’s decision. Even notable people like Ram Gopal Varma, a director, threw sarcasm at the government with his comment - “To ban porn saying it will be seen by who shouldn't see it is like saying to stop traffic because there will be accidents.” Others were more of humourous and cheeky digs at the government much like this tweet, “Stop crying over the #PornBan. The government will make sure that you get fucked.” FirstPost even published an opinion piece titled, “Indian govt's porn ban is empty, illusory measure; tackling sexual assault needs real intent and action” presenting a long critique of the porn ban. Subsequently, the government rescinded its decision a week later and only held up the ban for child pornography sites.

The issue had appeared to die down with the rescindment of the ban, however, three years later, the porn ban was revived and was making headlines once again. On October 27 of 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed five of the largest Internet Service Providers of India to ban 827 pornographic websites from their network.

The 2018 ban was triggered by horrific reports of four boys that gang-raped a 16-year-old girl after luring her to a storeroom on the false pretext of preparation for Independence Day celebrations for their school. The case was initially kept secret by the school to avoid any accountability but eventually, the case became public in September. When interrogated, one of the boys revealed that the idea of rape came to him after watching porn on his mobile phone. Based on this incident, in September the Uttarakhand High Court re-appealed to the government for the porn ban to be implemented again. The court said, “unlimited access to pornographic sites should be curbed to avoid adverse influence on the impressionable minds of children.”

That may be the case but if the porn ban was really the solution is still to be studied. The after-effects of the porn ban and porn accessibility among adolescents in India hasn’t been evaluated yet so we have no evidence to prove the efficacy of the ban.

Nevertheless, major telecom companies like Jio, Airtel and Vodaphone banned and still continue to ban pornography websites from their network till date, you can still find them on google searches but most ISPs will display a page that read “YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO ACCESS THIS WEB PAGE AS PER THE DoT COMPLIANCE”.

Pornhub had created a mirror website in response to the ban

Predictably, Pornhub was against the porn ban and said that it will pose a risk for Indian users as they will venture on to untrusted websites with unregulated content as reported in the Independent.

Corey Price, VP, Pornhub made very outspoken claims about India and its problem with sexual violence against women, "There are no laws against pornography in India and watching adult content privately. It’s evident that the Indian government does not have a solution to a very serious and systemic problem in the country, and is using adult sites like ours as a scapegoat,”

Pornhub was visibly offended by the ban, after all, a huge amount of traffic that they receive is from Indians. “This is apparent by the fact that they only banned large sites like Pornhub’s, and didn’t block thousands of risky porn sites that may contain illegal content." Price said.

"For the government to ban sites like ours that have compliant parental controls, a non-consensual take down page and a strict Terms of Service is a disservice to the people of India, who have become one of the largest connoisseurs of adult content," he continued.

Will you be penalised for accessing banned websites?

For the world’s third-biggest porn-watching nation (after the US and the UK) this ban was a hard pill to swallow. Indians, however, found a jugaad (short-cuts) around the porn site ban by using VPNs, DNS server change, proxies, which deemed the ban unsuccessful in stopping them from watching porn. With these easy technological hacks, you may have fooled the system, but are you fooling the government too? Moreover, is there a chance for you to be penalized for accessing banned porn websites?

There are two answers to this question. Yes, if you're visiting websites that displays child porn as watching or promoting child pornography is a serious criminal offence in India. But no, if you're visiting an adult website that holds legally permissible porn content but is blocked in India. For example, using a VPN to access XVideos or Pornhub won't get you in legal trouble as long as you're watching them at home.

The thing is that the onus of implementing the ban is on the service provider and not on you, the user. So, if you've found a way around the system to watch legal porn content, you're in safe waters. However, if a service provider like Airtel or Jio fails to ban adult websites in accordance with the DoT's orders, it can lose its license as a consequence.

Despite the ban still in place, a report by Times of India stated that during the initial months of lockdown, the average increase in porn-watching from India was 33%, three times that of the average rise worldwide which saw an increase of 10.5%. Clearly, the porn ban has hardly deterred Indians from viewing porn.

Although Vaswani's intention to tackle crimes against women is noble, the actions may too superficial for a problem that is layers deep. It’s true that porn may have the ability to propagate a distorted image of sexual intercourse as it’s often viewed by impressionable teens but according to BBC’s analysis of a series of research studies on the same, the correlation between porn and sexual violence is mostly inconclusive. Moreover, the prevalence of sexism and rape culture is far greater and seeps in more of our daily interactions compared to our exposure to porn. So, a better start would be to first, address visible and daily instances of misogyny and objectification of women before addressing people’s porn preferences.

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