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An extract from the petition reads: ‘This petition is also filed for enforcement of the fundamental rights of 75% of the Indian population including women/girls/children (housewife, working and non-working women, students) as women and children of India’ (1) (my italics).
Laying out his argument in no uncertain terms Vaswani goes on to say, ‘The severity and gravity of images is increasing…
He thus brings to the fore an argument that has been thoroughly but inconclusively rehearsed across the world: pornography leads to sexual violence.
Submitted soon after the gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi sparked ripples across the world and finally woke Indian media up to the seriousness of sexual assault within the country, Vaswani’s timely petition captured both public imagination and media spotlight.
(3) And of course, as we are all quick to mention these days, Delhi is the unofficial ‘rape capital of the India (and more recently, the world)’, notwithstanding the reality that several areas within India itself (notably with little to internet penetration) have far higher statistics of rape, sexual assault and violence against women.
In early April 2013, lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani filed a Public Interest Litigation petition to the Supreme Court of India calling for a ban against the consumption of pornography.While existing online and offline Indian laws already criminalise the distribution of sexually explicit material as well as the viewing of child pornography, Vaswani’s petition argues that these provisions are not enough.Online Porn and Offline Violence An editor of leading Indian daily The Hindu, Vaishna Roy, draws attention to two facts in support of the pornography ban.First, two men who were recently arrested for raping a 5-year old girl in Delhi had been watching porn on their mobile phones preceding the rape; and second, that according to Google, New Delhi has recorded the highest number of searches for the word ‘porn’ across the globe.
most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography.’ (2) In this way, and mirroring several existing Indian laws and mores, the petition sets up a scenario where the victims of visual representations are always ‘innocent’, lacking-in-agency, ‘good’ Indian women.The proposed litigation raises two immediate questions: Is there any clear connection between rape pornography and actual rape and; given the way in which Indian internet laws are granting more power to the State for surveillance, what would such a ban mean for freedom of expression online?