"Markets in south Mumbai have such toys on display."
It has been revealed that within a period of two years, the Mumbai Customs Department has seized Rs. 8 Crore (£910,000) worth of sex toys.
A Right to Information (RTI) query was filed by activist Prithviraj Maske which led to the revelation from 2017 to January 2019.
The popularity of sex toys in Mumbai and India as a whole is evident despite them being banned under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The large quantity has been illegally imported into the country. They are then seized by the Customs Department.
The RTI revealed that sex toys are being concealed within electronic devices, air pumps, hair cleaning products in order to get into India.
Maske had read reports about Mumbai’s airport transforming into a smuggling hub and decided to file an RTI. He was curious to know what type of things were being brought into the country.
He said: “The information surprised me when I found details of sex toys being smuggled. Markets in south Mumbai have such toys on display.
“This means that the customs department fails to detain all consignments.”
According to customs officials, sex toys are primarily imported from China. They make their way into Mumbai in the disguise of various consumable products.
Laws in India are unclear about the sale of sex toys. Usually, the concern is often related to the way these products are sold, with suggestive pictures and graphic descriptions.
An official stated that such shipments at airports are seized under the provisions of the Customs Act.
According to Section 11 of the Customs Act 1962, any materials of specified description that would cause grave injury to the maintenance of public order and standards of decency or morality are prohibited from being imported and exported.
The government had also issued a notification in 1964 which prohibited the importation of obscene books, pamphlets and drawings.
Those committing the offence could face fines and even prison.
As soon as they enter the Indian market, police officers can initiate action under Section 292 (1) of the IPC.
The Mumbai Police have been conducting raids on retailers who have been booked under the section.
However, there is no check online which means that websites openly sell products ranging from Rs. 3,000 (£34) to Rs. 25,000 (£280).
Dr Sujay Kantawala voiced his concern about the online sale of sex products. He said:
“The customs department at all entry points must seize and destroy such prohibited items under section 292 (display or exhibition of sex toys in an obscene manner of the IPC.
“I have seen all sorts of vibrators openly displayed for sale on footpaths in Fort area. This is not just obscene but illegal too.”
“Neither the police nor the BMC has taken any action against these illegal stalls encroaching upon footpaths.”
The use of sex toys has received differing opinions from sexologists.
Dr Prakash Kothari said that the correct usage can be healthy. He said:
“Sex toys which are available on the market if used properly can be of tremendous help.
“They can increase desire, enhance the quality of arousal and moreover, individuals experiencing difficulties or delays in orgasm can take help of such sex toys or vibrators.
“Such toys were popular in the times of Vatsayana who wrote Kamasutra. If a man is unable to satisfy a woman, he can do so by Apadravya (artificial penis) which is today’s vibrator.”
However, Dr Rajan Bhonsle said that they are not safe:
“Sex toys are not safe for use. I get many patients who ask me about them but I never advise in their favour. I had visited a sex toy market in the USA.
“These toys are very harmful and may even prove to be fatal at times.
“Sadomasochism (giving or receiving pleasure from the infliction of pain or humiliation) is the idea behind using such products.
“One example is that of a penis ring which is worn around the penis to restrict the flow of blood and produce a stronger erection.
“If used for longer durations, they may cause gangrene.”