Pornography has become a pervasive presence in today's society due to the widespread availability of the internet and other technologies. The popularity of pornography has grown exponentially in recent decades, with an estimated 30 percent of all web content devoted to pornographic material. Pornography is now readily available to virtually anyone with access to an internet connection, and it is consumed by people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.
Pornography can have a number of negative impacts on individuals and society, including desensitization to sexual content, reinforcement of damaging gender stereotypes, and decreased trust in relationships.
It can also lead to an addiction and compulsive behavior, as well as increase the risk of engaging in dangerous or illegal activities. Despite these risks, pornography is increasingly popular and can be difficult to avoid. It is important to discuss the potential harms of pornography and how to prevent its harmful effects.
Legality of Pornography In India
Pornography in India is a complex subject as it is illegal to produce, distribute, or possess pornographic material in India due to the country's obscenity laws. Though, the Indian government is trying hard to regulate the use of this pornographic content by banning such websites. Indian laws such as, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and other laws that criminalizes the act of watching and promoting pornography.
Despite pornography laws, pornography is widely available in India, and is increasingly consumed through various online platforms. Cyber pornography continues to pose a serious concern despite the existence of laws, and millions of minors, mostly female young people, are becoming victims of it.
While the Indian government has taken steps to limit the spread of pornographic content, the country remains one of the top consumers of online porn in the world. As a result, debates about the legality and morality of pornography in India are ongoing.
What is Porn and its Impact
The term "pornographic content" refers to any media, including video, pictures, and movies, that contain sexually explicit acts that are generally considered indecent in public. The term pornography refers to the portrayal of sexual actions in books, films, texts, photographs, or other media for the purpose of producing sexual excitement and fulfilling sexual fantasies. It is the portrayal or visual representation of the act rather than the act itself in exact words.
Unfortunately, in this world of virtual access for everything, the scope of pornography has expanded. There are majorly two types of pornography : softcore pornography and hardcore pornography. Softcore pornography differs from hardcore pornography only in that no penetration is depicted in softcore and penetration is depicted in hardcore.
Mental and Social Impacts:
- In marriage, pornography addiction can lead to deception because this content is typically viewed privately.
- Such indecent acts could affect the individual or their family members.
- It develops a wrong perception about women as they are heavily objectified desurpting mental health of the viewers.
- Some illegal activities can be promoted by pornographic content, such as adultery, prostitution, and other unreal fantasies.
Laws Governing Pornography In India
As discussed above, there are certain laws that regulates pornograpbhy and its consumption in India:
The Indian Penal Code (IPC): Section 292 of the IPC prohibits the sale, distribution, or public exhibition of obscene material.
In India, the sale, distribution, and possession of pornographic material is illegal and punishable by law. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) contains specific sections that prohibit the sale, distribution and possession of obscene material.
- Section 292A of the IPC states that “whoever sells or distributes, or has in his possession for sale or distribution, any obscene object shall be punished with imprisonment or fine or both. It is significant to observe that there are other several sections of the Indian Penal Code that deals with obscenity, including those related to child pornography, cyber-pornography, and other forms of obscene material.
- Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code states that anyone who prints, publishes, or sells any material which is obscene in nature, or publicly exhibits any obscene material, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with a fine, or with both.
- Section 293 of the IPC states that “whoever prints or causes to be printed any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever” will be given a punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or fine, or both.
- Section 298A of the IPC states that “whoever intentionally circulates any material which contains grossly offensive or menacing character with an intention to outrage the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The Information Technology Act, 2000: Section 67 of the IT Act prohibits the publishing or transmitting of electronic material that is lascivious or appeals to prurient interests.
It is prohibited to publish or transmit obscene material under section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The law defines obscene material as anything lascivious, appealing to the prurient or tending to deprave and corrupt people. Usually, for the first conviction the punishment is for three years and fine is up to five lakh rupees. For the subsequent conviction, the fine goes up to ten lakh rupees and five years of jail.
The publication or transmission of anything depicting sexually explicit acts or conduct is punishable under Section 67A. A fine of up to 10 lakh rupees or five years in prison are the possible punishments for this offense. In addition, Section 67 B prohibits the distribution or creation of pornographic content related to minors that depicts minors in an obscene or sexually explicit manner.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012: This act criminalizes the production, distribution, and possession of child pornography.
The POCSO Act, 2012 is an important piece of legislation designed to protect children and prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation. In Section 2 (d) of the Act, a kid is defined as anyone under the age of 18 who commits a sexual offense against a child. In Chapter III, the POCSO addresses the use of minors for pornographic purposes, and establishes Special Courts for such cases. A crucial section of the POCSO is section 42, which states that if an offence is criminal under both the POCSO and the IPC, the offender who is found guilty faces the most severe punishment.
Child or minor pornography is punishable under Section 14(1) by up to five years in prison and a fine. Moreover, under Section 15 of the aforementioned statute, storing pornographic material involving a child for the purpose of distributing it is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine, or both.
The Customs Act, 1962: The import or export of pornographic material is prohibited under the Customs Act.
The Act prohibits the import and export of items that are prohibited under any other law in India. It also prohibits the import or export of goods that are prohibited under any international law or treaty. Pornography is prohibited under the Indian Penal Code and hence its import or export is also prohibited under the Customs Act.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986: This act prohibits the indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures, or in any other manner.
In 1986, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA) was enacted, prohibiting advertisements that depict women in an indecent manner. Furthermore, it prohibits the publication of any book, pamphlet, painting, or any other media that portrays women in an indecent manner. The Ministry of Women and Child Development also introduced certain amendments in this act. According to their recommendations, indecent representations of women should be prohibited on messaging platforms like Skype, Whatsapp, or Telegram. In July 2021, however, the government withdrew these suggestions stating that Information Technology Rules 2021, the Cinematograph Act 1952, and several other laws already included these amendments.
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995: The act regulates the programming and advertising content on cable networks, including pornographic content.
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 is an act of the Indian Parliament that regulates the operation of cable television networks in India. It seeks to provide for the regulation of the operation of such networks and for the prevention of their misuse for the purpose of any unlawful activity like pornography or obscene shows. The Act also provides for the establishment of a regulatory authority, which is responsible for the enforcement of the Act and the regulation of cable television networks. Under the Act, all cable television operators must obtain a license from the regulatory authority in order to operate their networks in India. Further, it monitors and censors all the inappropriate television content, as well as the implement a code of conduct for the cable networks. It prohibits the telecasting of any programme that is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberately false, or offensive in character.
The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956: This act prohibits the distribution or sale of harmful publications to young people, including pornographic material.
The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1956 is an inspired act from the United Kingdom s Act of Parliament which was passed to protect young people from exposure to potentially damaging or harmful publications. It seeks to ensure that any publication which may be considered to be harmful to young people is not readily available for them to access. It also establishes powers for local authorities to take action against anyone found to have published, distributed, or sold such material. The Act sets out criteria which must be met for a publication to be classified as "harmful" and sets out the powers of local authorities to take action against those who break the law. It provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council on the Welfare of Children and Young Persons. This council has the responsibility of advising the Secretary of State for Education on ways to protect young people from exposure to harmful publications.
In Indian society, even talking about sex is considered immoral and uncomfortable, and therefore porn is considered something illegal. This is not limited to talking, even watching a porn in your private space is considered to be a punishable crime. It has been reported that Indian youth are highly addicted to porn, which affects their behavior adversely.
Many pornographic sites are free, which invites many security threats such as phishing, trojan horses, malware, etc. When it comes to making laws relating to pornographic content, even the government takes morality into account. There are still many negative effects associated with addiction to porn, which is why regulation of porn becomes necessary.
It is not only the government or judiciary that should make efforts to regulate the use of this pornographic content, but also the people, especially the youth. There needs to be a greater awareness of the negative effects of pornographic content as well as its implications among the general public. This problem cannot be solved by banning all porn websites; instead, citizens and regulating bodies need to work together to solve it.