NEW DELHI (Web Desk) – Puzzled customers of India’s leading internet providers have been left with no access to porn sites after a government agency reportedly ordered the ban of 857 pages containing explicit material.
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The order is seen as an encroachment into citizens’ personal space and their right to view adult content within the confines of their homes.
Users complained that several adult websites, even if they did not have pornographic content, were blocked. They also said the government was using concern over child porn as an excuse to crack down on adult websites and intrude into the private space of citizens.
The government, however, denied that there was any crackdown. A telecom ministry official said denial of access at department of telecom’s (DoT) instance was temporary, insisting that it was a prelude to the creation of a regular regulatory oversight.
According to him, the directive was necessitated by the Supreme Court’s observations last month over the home ministry’s failure in blocking child pornography on several sites, and claimed that the idea was not to black out or police what people did in their bedrooms.
Telecom company executives said it was not possible to block all the sites immediately. “We have to block each site one by one and it will take a few days for all service providers to block all the sites,” said an executive, requesting anonymity.
However, the denials failed to wash with those who pointed to the “prominence of prudes” in the current dispensation to claim that the restrictions could be part of larger drive to cleanse the web of pornography. The officials say the SC had, while expressing concern, suggested that a citizen could not be stopped from browsing adult websites within his bedroom.
Sources said the order was issued under provisions of the Information Technology Act as well as Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which empowered the government to impose restrictions to enforce decency or morality, among other things, the Times of India reported.
Social media is abuzz with dismay and speculation.
With no known official warning prior to Sunday’s sudden string of 404s, online users took to Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit in an attempt to solve the mystery of the vanishing porn.
The land that gave the world Kamasutra has now banned porn. Oh the irony. #पोर्न_बैन
— Aria Thakur (@OhHelloSarcasm) August 2, 2015
But those following India’s civil rights battles may have seen a ban of this sort coming, as pornography has been tied to certain social problems – namely rape – in political discourse.
Bad move as it will only increase rape in India. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. #पोर्न_बैन
— Saifur Rahman Mohsin (@SaifurMohsin) August 2, 2015
The ambiguity of the top judicial body’s response has sparked speculation over the role the government had to play in pushing the ban through.
India: Divided by religion. United by #PornBan
— prayag sonar (@prayag_sonar) August 3, 2015
Can India ban porn?
According to data from Pornhub, one of the world’s largest porn sites, Indians are among the most “prolific consumers” of internet pornography, accounting for 40% of its 14.2 billion visits.
Mizoram consumes most porn and Delhi finishes a close second, the data revealed, adding that Canadian-Indian actress Sunny Leone is the most searched-for porn star in the country.
Reddit user BassistEddie wrote on Sunday’s development, “First, we have to know if it’s really government who has banned them, because Supreme Court has refused to ban them, saying that it will be a violation of Article 21, the right to personal liberty.”
Banning porn is a kind of savage and barbaric act and it will not be tolrated at any cost. 😉 😉 #पोर्न_बैन
— Desi Dude (@hiteshthetiger) August 2, 2015
He was referring to what the Supreme Court asked last month: Is a person browsing pornographic websites within the four walls of his home committing any offence?
Media reports said when the apex court was pressed for a direction under existing cyber laws to block websites immediately, the judges said. “It is an issue for the government to deal with. Can we pass an interim order directing blocking of all adult websites? And let us keep in mind the possible contention of a person who could ask what crime have I committed by browsing adult websites in private within the four walls of my house. Could he not argue about his right to freedom to do something within the four walls of his house without violating any law?”
A section of activists is seeking a ban on internet pornography, especially sites with abusive and child pornography, while others consider the move a brazen attack on individual freedom. The technicalities involved in getting porn sites banned too remain a major hurdle for authorities.
— Lakshmi (@Phantom_Delight) August 2, 2015
But at the same time, there is a strong debate on whether watching violent and fetishist porn encourages violence against women and sexism.