Is Porn to Blame for Sexual Violence in India?

Sexual violence and porn are often referred to in the same sentence in India especially when it comes to the escalating scale of rape cases.

sexual violence india porn to blame

“Pornography is the theory- rape is the practice”

Porn isn’t illegal in India.

But Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code refers to the consumption, distribution and creation of pornography as an “obscenity.”

A recent report by the Indian Times revealed that India has the 3rd highest porn consumption in the world and 71.4% of Indian men were reported to regularly watch porn in 2017.

Pornhub has also reported a significant rise in the use of porn in India.

The Vice president of Pornhub, Corey Price, says:

“Due to the size of India, as one of the most populated countries in the world, it has always been a large market for us.”

Sexual violence in India has also increased. Hugely.

Cases of rape, especially against women and girls, gang rapes, sexual assault against children and minors, are still rising significantly.

Daily media reports from India unveil cases of rape.

From rural incidents in places like in Kathua, Unnao, and Chennai, to cases like the NGO Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes where 34 underage girls were allegedly raped by those running the home in Bihar.

So, many people argue that the high porn consumption is not a subconscious geographic factor but actually has a connection with the increase of rapes in India.

Porn and Sexual Violence in India

india sexual violence protest

Porn consumers in India have blurred the line between real and fictional.

For example, young Indian men and boys who have never received any kind of sex education in their lives who come across porn will most likely assume sex being performed only in this way.

Therefore, being desensitised to the reality of forming meaningful sexual relationships and developing respect for women.

Thus, regular porn watchers in India are becoming more adept at the social decorum followed in porn.

This has created a shift in attitudes as porn could be encouraging its consumers to stop adhering to social etiquettes of the real world and respecting the importance of fundamental consent.

But another harrowing question is: does everyone in India know that sexual violence is wrong?

Many theories have surfaced in order to explain India’s porn crisis.

For example, India’s high consumption of porn could be due to the systematic killing of female fetuses that has created a gender imbalance in India. For every 1,000 boys, there are 912 girls.

This statistic makes it hard for men to maintain a healthy and normal relationship with a woman on a romantic level; ultimately making porn their most accessible form of sexual interaction with women.

Many people in India believe that porn is pro-rape, and most ardent porn watchers will eventually commit rape.

Staunch feminist Robin Morgan’s statement “Pornography is the theory – rape is the practice” resonates with many Indians.

In India, porn and rape are widely believed to coincide.

Porn is often described as a seed of lust that has been planted in the consumer’s mind everytime they watch it, until one day they commit rape themselves.

Another practice which is associated with rape and porn is the sale of rape videos in India, which are being sold for as little as £1.

India certainly seems to have a problem when it comes to the concept of healthy sexual relations versus those interpreted by young men who see sexual liberty with a woman or minor as being acceptable.

Mari Marcel Thekaekara, a human rights activist based in Gudalar, Tamil Nadu, India, highlighted the issue in an editorial in the The Guardian with the title, Sexual violence is the new normal in India—and pornography is to blame.

Thekaekara believes that India needs to have stricter rules when it comes to porn because the distribution and consumption are not controlled, revealing:

“Boys as young as 10 download pornography from mobile phone shops for as little as 10 rupees (12p). The combination of endless, violent porn videos and alcohol appears to be a lethal trigger for many rapes in India.”

“Arranged marriages are still the norm across all religions. For repressed men to be fed a constant diet of porn on their phones is a recipe for disaster,” she adds.

Thekaekara spoke to Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, a child rights activist for 30 years, about the rise of porn in India, and Thukral argues:

“Society is being sexualised, there is sexual content everywhere, in films and music. Rampant, vicious porn is easily available to children.

“Uneducated and illiterate people haven’t a clue about what their kids see on their phones. The vegetable vendor near my house sits glued to his mobile all day.

“Two young boys with one wire plugged into an each, sharing a video. I can assure you they are not watching the news.”

It is clear that porn is very easily accessible in India due to the increased popularity of social media and continually improved network connectivity.

Leading to many young people in India accessing explicit content which is created for audiences who have a better understanding and can differentiate between porn and reality.

Sexual violence towards women displayed in porn is then often seen by these viewers as the norm and the way to treat women.

Sadly, rapes of young children and women are still increasing at an alarming rate in India with gang rapes becoming a growing issue.

The problem is not going to get any smaller in India, due to the liberals fight for freedom of expression and civil liberties versus the need to protect children and women from predators and harmful porn.

In the past, when the Indian government imposed a ban on porn, outrage was sparked by these very liberal activists who did not agree with it. 

Thekaekara says despite being a grassroots activist, people like her are “are increasingly sick of liberals fighting for freedom to watch violent, sadistic porn.” 

The Sunny Leone Factor

india sexual violence manforce

The arrival of ex-porn star Sunny Leone into Bollywood and the entertainment industry in India exploded with an increase in online searches for her. Especially her porn content.

Sunny was the highest searched celebrity on Google in India in 2016.

The youth of India saw her as someone who broke the mould of India’s very conservative views on sexuality, especially, for women.

However, her presence in India did not go unscathed, she had an FIR filed against her for obscene videos and photos in May 2015.

Ms Anjali Palan, who is a member of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), filed the complaint saying she was poisoning young minds and said:

“When I visited her website I found that it was not fit for viewing. That’s why I lodged this complaint.”

Palan also implied that watching the adult videos of the star on her website could lead to rape.

In September 2015, Indian politician Atul Anjan warned India that Sunny Leone’s condom advertisements would result in a rise of rape cases in India.

He even added that he had ‘puked after watching porn’. His comments did receive a backlash from many in India.

Sunny Leone did reply to his comments on Twitter and said:

“Sad when people of of power waste their time and energy on me, instead of focusing on helping those in need !!!!! #SHAME #EPICFAIL

— Sunny Leone (@SunnyLeone) September 3, 2015

Anjan did apologise to Sunny Leone subsequently.

But then, her Manforce condom adverts in 2017 sparked fury amongst groups of women leading to protests for the adverts to be banned on TV, despite it promoting the message of safe sex.

Sunny found it hard accepted into the film industry with open arms and there are still many very prudish about signing her for projects due to her adult career in the past.

To tell her story, Sunny Leone released an original Zee5 web series based on her life in July 2018, called Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone.

When asked at the release of her biopic about her being blamed for the rapes in India, she replied:

“I don’t see myself as a victim, a soft target maybe. I believe people should have a right to say what they want to.

“They all had their own journey that they take. Most of the time I brush it off. It’s nonsense. 

“The rational people know it’s nonsense. It gets on my nerves sometimes. Does it hurt me? No.”

However, whilst Sunny Leone is trying hard to get acceptance in India, there are still many conservative aspects of Indian society who always will not want her there and blame her for the increase in sexual crime.

But prior to Sunny Leone, there were other sexual role models that did exist, such as the adult comic book series of Savita Bhabi. Featuring a married woman having adulterous adventures with young men.

In addition, there is the Kama Sutra, which was written in India and meant to be a way of life for sexual satisfaction.

Porn Consumption in India

india sexual violence consumption porn

There is no doubt that the increased availability of porn online has increased its use and demand in India.

Both Indian men and women have increased their porn consumption in India.

Amateur porn in India has also seen a growth.

With the offer of cheap data plans on mobile networks such as Reliance Jio in India, there has been a correlation to an increased consumption of porn. As much as a 75% increase has been reported.

In one report, Pornhub gathered a small group of 20-25-year-old Indian men who admitted to watching porn.

The findings from this focus group were interesting, as the men shared that they often search for ‘best friend’s mom’ or ‘friend’s hot sister.’

Despite most of the men sharing that they never search for homosexual porn, paedophilia and porn that reenactments a gang rape.

It should be noted that a lot of the searched terms involve average and respected women within society; which again blurs the line between real-life and fiction.

Additionally, an Indian woman filed a court petition against porn.

The Mumbai-based lady blamed porn for disrupting her marital bliss and believed it made her husband perverted.

She stated that she has slowly witnessed her husband become a porn addict. When asked about why she believes porn should be banned she said:

“Easy access of violent and hardcore porn websites is causing immense damage to family values in India.”

“People of all ages are becoming perverted and morally bankrupt due to porn addition.”

She also expressed her concern towards porn being distributed amongst children.

A common trait in India, especially rural areas is that a phone is the first thing children want access to, compared to any other item.

Then the policing of what they view and are watching is of a minimalist nature, due to many older generations not being literate or aware of the porn being available from a few taps away.

There have also been a plethora of unsettling case studies where pornography has played a focal part in the sexual violence towards an innocent individual.

For example, the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape that globally renamed Delhi to be ‘the rape capital of the world.’ Research on this case reveals that the six rapists had spent the evening watching violent porn and heavily drinking.

This solidifies the notion that porn and sexual violence does coincide at the expense of vulnerable women and children.

What is the Government doing?

india sexual violence consumption govt

India’s censor board is notorious for censoring films like Lipstick under my Burkha and Veere Di Wedding but when it comes to monitoring the accessibility of porn, they fall short.

There is anecdotal evidence indicating that most Indian people will first encounter porn at age of 12 because it is so easy to attain.

The nation is ranked just below the UK, USA and Canada when looking at which countries gained the most traffic in 2016.

The Supreme court seems to acknowledge the associations made between porn and sexual violence.

It’s obvious that they share the same concern as the general public, but are failing to come up with a suitable and sustainable solution that will ensure protection for the victims.

Thukral says:

“We look to the supreme court for solutions, not laments. It needs to see that implementation of laws regarding women’s safety is stringently carried out.”

The Indian government also needs to focus on fixing the sexual violence that takes place against children in India.

In light of this, the Indian government created a new legislation called Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of November 2012. This was India’s first law that was specifically aimed towards child sex abuse.

The law was also effective as 45% of child rape cases were reported the following year.

Despite this law, the death penalty is not a common punishment in India.

The method has only been used 3 times over the past decade.

The last person to face the death penalty in India was prosecuted in 2015 for financing the chilling Mumbai bombings in 1993.

Even the 4 convicted men for the 2012 Delhi rape case were sentenced to the death penalty but it is yet to happen.

This indicates that although there is legislation in place where capital punishment is the sentence for raping an infant. The law was recently implemented after a horrific case study where an 8-year-old girl was raped.

The government has put a system in place that aims to protect young girls. However, the shelter homes have become an easy place to abuse young girls.

Most of the children are rescued by the police and allocated into NGO (non-profitable organisations) shelter homes.

Often the NGO’s responsible for the safety and welfare of the children have strong connections with political parties.

A recent case study revealed that Brajesh Thakur’s Muzaffarpur shelter home was considered to be a hub for sexual violence towards young girls and women.

A lot more Indian children are finding themselves in shelter homes like the Muzaffarpur. This is because couples trying to have a baby are starting to opt for surrogacy rather than adopting a child.

It is evident that India needs to start carrying out mandatory checks to ensure the shelter homes genuinely are a safe environment for children to live in.

Porn is slowly moulding a new way of thinking within contemporary India.

The rise of porn has blurred the line between understanding what is acceptable in real life and what is fictional.

Some Indian wives even consider porn to be the source of perversion that can corrupt any mind.

This growing problem normalises sexual violence towards children. It seems that the government has only recently started to question the dubious foundations that some NGO centres are built on.

Even though porn isn’t illegal in India, there should be better a better system in place to ensure the content is age restricted and consumed safely.

But in a country like India, where controls are difficult to police in rural areas, it means better sex education may be the answer to help future generations survive the epidemic of sexual violence which seems to have a deep-rooted connection to the availability of porn.

Shivani is an English Literature and Computing graduate. Her interests involve learning Bharatanatyam and Bollywood dance. Her life motto: “If you are having a conversation where you are not laughing or learning, why are you having it?”

images courtesy of Hindustan Times, scroll.in



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