Young Indians are mature enough to have a conversation on porn. Parliamentary Committee should invite further inputs.

We made submissions to the ad-hoc committee constituted to study the impact of porn on social media.

08 January, 2020
2 min read

Tl;dr

Yesterday, we made submissions to the ad-hoc committee constituted to study the impact of porn on social media. This committee was formed barely a month back, and given the short timelines, absence of a notice inviting comments and year end holidays, we requested it to invite further feedback. Given that the issue of porn and its impact on minors is incredibly contested, we also impressed on the need to support further study, clearly define the harms being examined and finally to consider a review of the victorian era laws on obscenity.

Listen, we need to talk.

We think the time is ripe to have a conversation on this important yet knotty issue of the legality of pornography and its impact as it is deliberated by a parliamentary committee.

  • About the committee: This committee was constituted in the Rajya Sabha on December 12, 2019 titled as, “Committee to study the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as a whole.” It is working with an extremely short timeline to submit its report within a month (read more here). This means by January 12, 2019! To the best of our knowledge, it did not invite public comments. Even then, we have offered pro-active submissions to the committee members asking them to invite further inputs and stakeholders. Since our submissions are not pursuant to any notice, they may not constitute formal evidence, and hence, they are not bound by the rules of parliamentary privilege that apply to evidence tendered to standing committees under notices. In light of this, we are making a copy of the submissions publicly available.
  • Bring more experts to the table: We highlighted the need for medium to long-term, interdisciplinary studies as studies conducted in several forigen jurisdictions are repeatedly indicating conflicting results and outcomes. The Committee should particularly invite comments and expert testimony from individuals and organizations specializing in feminist thought, LGBTQIA+ rights and freedom of speech who have closely studied the regulation of pornography and obscenity in India. In this respect, our primary request at present is to extend the deadline to undertake serious and considered study.

Our substantive submission: Reform obscenity laws. Punish image based sexual abuse.

We have held a consistent and clear position on pornography that draws from our understanding of our fundamental right to freedom of expression. Adult desire that recognises autonomy and consent is the framework of stable, healthy societies that eschew repression. This has been a constant thread running through our RTI work around the porn blocks or how ISPs in India were illegally blocking porn.

While porn is problematic for a multitude of reasons including lack of media diversity and lack of labour protections, the principal regulation in India for it originates from victorian sensibilities. This is toxic as it often undermines the rights of autonomy, consent and sexuality. It criminalises healthy adult behaviours and represses desire. More worryingly existing criminal provisions on obscenity are being used for criminalising political dissent. Researchers have documented how obscenity provisions have been used as a proxy for Section 66A which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court!

To protect minors especially we would recommend a layered approach which proceeds from school curriculum, to parenting tools and data protection norms that are specialised such as the United State's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Young India is mature enough to have an conversation on porn.

Important Documents

  1. Submission to the Ad-Hoc Committee on Porn (PDF link)

Why should our lives be governed by British era laws on obscenity? Help us fight victorian sensibilities in 2020. Become an IFF member today!

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