In today’s papers in Raipur there’s a harrowing tale. A gang run by a couple kidnaps young girls, has them raped, and convinces them that they have nowhere to go now. The girls, shamed, scared, and lonely, are put into prostitution.
It is horrifying that the couple has two daughters of their own, that they were able to use a hotel to keep them captive and that girls in early teens are not safe anymore, but to me the most infuriating part is how easy it is to convince the girls that they will not be accepted by their families. Such is the stigma of anything sexual in our society. In Masaan, its not the act of making love, or the psychological issues related to it that cause pain. All the pain is due to a threat of exposure. The shamefulness of sexuality.
What the central government has done in last couple of days is another step in the wrong direction. The state run ISPs have started blocking porn websites. In a society with no sexual education, serious taboos on mixing of genders and massive repression, this will further the middle-easternization of India.
Ancient India wasn’t like this. It celebrated raas, celebrated Shakuntala by Kalidas, celebrated Arjun eloping with Subhadra, celebrated love and its expression in all myriad ways. The women were not asked to cover themselves up, and it was men who covered their heads, not women. Then came the invaders. From Middle East and later from Victorian England. The two most repressed societies ever. And we started equating sexual abstinence with morality. Abstinence was only for the Sanyasis, who renounce all pleasure. Why did we all become Sanyasis?
The irony is that England has shed its jaded Victorian ideas, but we still cling to the laws they made for us. We still ban homosexuality, and even sexual experimentation amongst the heterosexual. In the race to be the most Hindu ever, the state is becoming Abrahamic.
This is not about protecting children. That’s the responsibility of their parents, not of the state in general. This isn’t even about protecting the porn stars. That’s a legitimate task of the state but the state doesn’t do it. Banning it all achieves nothing except pushing the industry to black market. And it makes the government claim a moral high stand.
Now we all know that porn is not simple. In India, the problem of revenge/boast porn is rampant. Guys shoot an encounter with or without permission and upload it for the world. This is a crime, and needs to be stopped. Sites with porn without consent or child pornography should be banned, of course. Unless they have a robust mechanism to identify and remove such content. But thats not the case here. No attempt is made to identify and target the right sites. Just a blanket ban.
To sound appealing to those who want to police the morality of others, we are making choice immoral. Porn ban does not solve any problem. In country after country, banning sexual entertainment doesn’t lead to lower sexual violence. The opposite in fact. And ban doesn’t even curb consumption. Pakistan is the largest consumer of porn in the world, despite the ban. And not safe for women, or for children.
There was a post recently about ISIS demanding sheep genitals to be covered up in a village in Syria because they were “exciting” some men. That’s where we end up if we keep covering up. That’s not the solution. Ancient India was no paragon of equality, but we’d do better to aim for that than the repressive, moralizing ideas we’ve imported from our invaders.
Let’s remove the stigma fro sexuality. The stigma is the cause of more pain than sex alone could cause. Repression of sexuality imprisons and shames our women, and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.