India's Supreme Court May Ban Porn Viewing, Even in Private Homes

The land that gave us the Kama Sutra is having trouble with pornography. As the Times of India reported, India’s Supreme Court is unhappy with the federal government’s inaction in combating widespread internet porn. Taking matters into its own hands, the Court is considering a blanket ban on all porn.

The issue goes back to a 2013 petition before the court to make watching pornography a “non-bailable offense.” As the term suggests, that’s more severe than a bailable offense. The latter can be a simple slap on the wrist and, before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” you’re released. Those arrested for non-bailable offenses are stuck in the pokey until they can argue for bail before a judge. Who wants to beg for mercy because you got busted watching Brazzers?

At the time, those seeking the new legislation argued that “existing laws had failed to prohibit proliferation of internet pornography and alleged that it was affecting the younger generation and resulting in increasing sexual assaults on women.” They noted that "20 crore porn videos/porn clippings are available in the Indian market.” That’s 200 million, converted from India’s (quite fascinating) counting system, which actually sounds a bit low.

The petitioner argued:

"Porn is always on demand and watching brutal form of porn increases the viewer's appetite for similar actions within society. Pornographic literature seeks to confirm that people are objects who can be sold and bought in the market. It treats sex as a commodity and exploits it commercially. When exploitation of sex is accepted in society, then all characteristics attributable to commercial exploitation also become acceptable which is to maximize profit."

One lawyer, Vijay Panjwani, was quick to cite the widespread availability of child pornography, that most convenient boogeyman for morality crusaders everywhere.

Which brings us to this week’s anti-porn push. Once again using the looming spectre of kiddie porn, the Supreme Court has taken “a dim view of the home ministry's lethargy in blocking websites circulating child pornography” and floated the possibility of laws that would make all porn consumption illegal. The issue, of course, is when both consumer and subject are of legal age; the subject consented to the production; and the dirty deed occurs in one’s private home.

Fortunately, the court is aware of the troubling privacy implications. From the Times of India:

When Panjwani persisted for a direction under existing cyber laws to block the websites immediately, the bench 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?"

It does sound as if India’s child porn laws are laxer than those elsewhere, including in the U.S. When asked about the distribution of such smut, India’s internet service providers take the same tack as ISPs everywhere else: They are merely data pipelines, not the morality police. This has apparently held up in court.

But surely, India’s tech sector shouldn’t knowingly allow kiddie porn to travel through its pipes? Even in the U.S., where our right to free speech remains admirably strong, kiddie porn is an inexcusable offense that sit aparts from any Constitutional protections.

If India's Supreme Court enacts these broadstroke anti-porn laws, the long arm of law enforcement will face a long, hard battle. According to the number-crunchers at PornHub, India ranks fifth overall among the world’s searchers on their popular smut hub; they’re fourth among mobile users. Refreshingly, Indian searchers actually prefer domestic smut: “The ‘Indian’ category is by far the most popular in India, surpassing international favorite ‘Teen’ for most views,” PornHub Insights reports.

Coming up in third place? “Big tits.”

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