Porn ban: A violation of Article 21 or an alarm sounded too late?

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The Indian government has banned 857 pornographic sites and hell breaks loose on social media. People may not have reacted so much even when former PM APJ Abdul Kalam died.

Some say it is a breach of privacy (as reiterated by the Supreme Court last time), others blame it on the NDA government that is ruled by its RSS ideologies.

porn

The surprising part of the Twitter reaction was Ram Gopal Varma's tweet, which said,"To ban porn saying it will be seen by who shouldn't see it is like saying to stop traffic because there will be accidents" (And we thought Anushka Sharma committed a crime by naming APJ Abdul Kalam wrongly).

But what interested us the most was the idea that the regulation was in violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Ironically, if we go deeper into the article, we do not find any reference of 'watching sexually explicit material' as a personal or private habit and banning that as a 'breach of privacy'.

Incidentally, that gives rise to another question. What does privacy for this generation mean? To be precise, what are the habits that youngsters prefer to indulge themselves into these days and consider it as a private sphere. Which again, gives rise to a speculation that is both alarming and disturbing-have Indian youngsters chosen Pornography over other hobbies as the best means of entertainment?

Statistics that say it all

Consider this:

A top survey of 400 Indian Students in India, throws the following results, which have been published by some of the star dailies of the country:

  • 70% of boys began watching porn at age 10.
  • 93% of boys said that porn was addictive as drugs.
  • 86% said that porn led to sexual activity.
  • 47% of Indians access porn from their desktop computer, while the rest access it from their smartphone. Rest access porn by their tablets. India is the 5th highest consumer of porn in the world.
  • Of a survey of 8,000 girls and women in India, 49% said they learned about sex from watching porn videos.
  • More than 80% of Indian high school students have been exposed to porn.
  • A year long survey found that 75% of pre-university students in rural areas of India were addicted to porn.
  • In a survey of 300 children under the age of 13 in India, 67% admitted to accessing porn sites, most by their cell phones.

A Google Trend search shows India is second in ranking, after Sri Lanka, in watching porn on the Internet.

Pornhub, the largest pornographic site in the world, gives more specific details. The India-specific data was collected between September 2013 and September 2014. India is found to be the fifth largest daily visitor to the site and 4th largest on Mobile.

[Read: Government directs internet providers to block over 800 porn sites]

Strikingly, Indians spend 8.22 minutes on the website, per session when 8.9 minutes per session is the global average. An Indian will also open 7.32 pages of Pornhub in one single visit as compared to 7.6 pages globally.

Understanding Article 21

The explanation of the Article proves that we have got it all wrong. The Supreme Court has on various occassions explained what Article 21 deals with. It says that if personal liberty of an individual is taken away by law, the validity of the law cannot be questioned. In the same case, the Supreme Court held personal liberty would only mean liberty relating to the person or body of the individual.

To further validate its law, the Supreme Court recognised primary education as a fundamental right under Article 21. It further recognized right to free education, until the completion of 14 years as a Fundamental Right, overriding its earlier judgement in 1992, which declared that there was a Fundamental Right to education to any level including professional education like medicine and engineering.

However, the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 included Article 21A for making only elementary education a Fundamental Right.

Indeed, the interpretations have been customised according to one's own choice. In such a scenario, whether banning of pornographic sites is really an offense is something that needs to be reconsidered.

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