India's Government Blocks Access to Porn Websites

Anna K. Poole

Millions of India’s online movie-browsers met a mysterious information blockade as laptops glowed with a cryptic message: “This site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority.” 

India’s government required internet service providers to block 857 objectionable websites. Telecommunication officials say the sweeping censorship is meant to control easy access to sexually explicit material. The government made no official statement to defend the sweeping censorship, but telecommunications officials say the order is meant to promote moral decency and protect children. 

“Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check,” N.N. Kaul, spokesman for India’s telecom department, told Reuters, adding, “We don’t want them to become a social nuisance.” 

The list of nearly 1,000 blocked sites is tentative for now, and more may be added. According to the Times of India, the ban may be revised to apply only to websites containing child pornography or portraying dangerous sexual scenarios. 

India’s internet users lit up social media with angry rants, accusing the government of moral policing and infringing on personal freedoms. 

“Don’t ban porn. Ban men ogling, leering, brushing past, groping, molesting, abusing, humiliating, and raping women,” Chetan Bhagat, a popular Indian author, objected on Twitter. “[The] porn ban is anti-freedom, impractical, not enforceable … Let’s not manage people’s private lives,” he added.

The ruling comes as a surprise in light of India’s recent stance on the subject. Last month, the nation’s Supreme Court washed its hands of pornography regulation, saying a ban on adult sites wasn’t its job. Last year, the court rejected a petition suggesting pornography should be monitored by the government. In the past, India has tried to regulate social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, asking users to remove offensive posts and images. 

While the government is making pornographic material harder to access, individuals may cheat the system through virtual private networks and proxy servers. The World Post ranks the subcontinent home to the second-highest number of internet users, following China.

According to a recent New York Times report, the inspiration behind the ban is activist Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer who launched a campaign against pornography in response to the 2012 gang rape and fatal assault of a young university student in Delhi. The report included a heated selection from Vaswani’s Supreme Court petition: “Nothing can more efficiently destroy a person, fizzle their mind, evaporate their future, eliminate their potential, or destroy society like pornography.”

Recent data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau shows the number of New Delhi’s reported rapes has nearly doubled since 2012. Despite increased media attention and prevention measures, the majority of the country’s sex crimes go unreported. 

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Publication date: August 10, 2015