Pornography and Sex Crimes

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    In News

    • Recently, Supreme court looked into individual cases to find out whether or not viewing of pornography had triggered the crime.

    More about the news

    • The petition:
      • The petition had sought direction from the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) to study the link between free access to internet pornography and child sexual abuse cases as well as rape.
      • The plea was advocating a link between watching internet porn and sex crimes, including child abuse.
    • Supreme Court’s response:
      • The court said the government, if necessary, has enough material in its arsenal to ensure that criminal material is not uploaded on the Internet. 
    • Court’s fear on online surveillance:
      • Seeking a judicial declaration from the Supreme Court that porn on the Internet has led to child sex crimes would be equal to giving a go-ahead to online surveillance.

    More about pornography and associated laws against it in India

    • About:
      • The term “pornography” can be defined as the reporting or portrayal of sexual actions in order to produce sexual excitement through books, films, or other media
        • Pornographic websites, pornographic material created using computers, and the use of the internet to download and transmit pornographic films, texts, photographs, and photos, among other things, fall under this category. 
      • Is it an offence?
        • Put simply, watching porn in India, privately, does not fall within the ambit of an offence under Indian penal laws but, there are certain limitations to the liberty of watching porn that the Indian judiciary has laid down time and again.
    • Associated laws/punishments:
      • The following laws specify the events and situations that trigger punishment but they do not define “pornography” or “obscenity” precisely and specifically.
      • Indian Penal Code (IPC):
        • Sections 292 and 293 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 make it illegal to sell, distribute, and exhibit or circulate obscene objects
        • The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 added Section 354 D to the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which deals with stalking
      • Information Technology (IT) Act 2000:
        • The transmission of photographs of “a private part of any person without his or her agreement” is covered under the Act. 
          • For the same, the penalty is either three years in prison or a fine of not more than two lakh rupees, or both.
        • The publication or transmission of obscene material is covered by the Act
        • Publishing or sending anything that depicts sexually explicit acts or conduct is punishable
      • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012:
        • POCSO Act, 2012 is a significant piece of law aimed at protecting children’s rights and preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation. 
        • This Act deals with sexual offences against children, and a kid is defined as a person under the age of 18 under the Act.
        • The POCSO’s provisions address the use of minors for pornographic purposes, which we are not concerned with in this case. 
        • This Act establishes Special Courts to hear cases involving minors. 
      • Women’s Indecent Representation (Prohibition) Act of 1986 (IRWA):
        • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), enacted in 1986, forbids indecent representation of women in ads, publications, writings, paintings, figures, and other forms. 
        • In 2012, the Rajya Sabha proposed the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill
          • According to revisions recommended by the Ministry of Women and Child Development on the bill, the indecent portrayal of women on digital messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Skype should be made criminal.

    Way Ahead

    • Legality:
      • The Hon’ble High Court noted that privately watching pornography will not be considered a crime. 
      • But, every act relating to child pornography is punishable, therefore even watching child pornography is illegal.
    • Pornography in relation to sexual violence:
      • The relation between the consumption of pornography and sexual violence remains inconclusive. 
      • In view of its impact on policy-making and judicial decision-making (freedom of speech vis-à-vis regulating the behavior of an individual in private), this issue needs to be further explored.
    • Awareness:
      • It is not possible to bring a social change in one day by banning porn websites, the only way to deal with this situation is to make the general public aware of the dos and don’ts surrounding porn. 

    Source: TH