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The battle against porn

Women
India
07.08.15-demanding-justice-590x393.jpg

Students protest the rising violence against women in India, Raisina Hill, Rajpath, 22 December 2012. Nilanjana Roy under a Creative Commons Licence

Apologists for pornography abuse the ‘fight for freedom', argues Mari Marcel Thekaekara.

I have to believe in personal freedom. I am after all, a journalist and have been one for a fairly long time. Why, then, would I support a ban on pornography? Curtailing freedom is anathema to me. But I abhor porn. Not from a moral point of view. What two consenting adults do in their own time, in or out of their bedroom, is their own business, I believe. I cannot and will never be part of the moral policing brigade. The 1970s was all about rebelling against the hypocrisy of our parents’ generation. Remember?

I have thought about this long and hard.

The reason I detest the porn blitz, which has gone viral in India, is because I believe it puts women and children at risk. I have been writing about women’s issues, rape and child abuse for so long that I am thoroughly sick of having to do so. I have been told by youngsters, whose opinions are based on the gospel according to the internet, that I am being naïve, ignorant and ill-informed.

Why am I sounding off like the fundamentalist I’m supposedly not, they ask me. It’s quite simple, really. Dismiss my views as unscientific, as not based on empirical evidence and so on. But the police report that child and violent porn was being viewed by the perpetrators in a huge number of rape and sexual-abuse cases. Mark Bridger, the paedophile who kidnapped, raped and murdered 4-year-old April Jones, had lots of paedophile porn on his computer. Phillip Noyes, acting chief executive of Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), says April’s case adds to growing evidence of the link between child sexual abuse and extreme porn.

Child porn is for perverts, I can hear critics say, but adult porn is our birthright. Right? Wrong. I typed ‘porn’ and ‘rape’ into a search engine. The offers to watch virgins deflowered (my version of expletive deleted) forcibly and violently is what comes up, time and again. It is revolting viewing.

I came to the conclusion that many, but not all, rapes are linked to porn when I first read about the 3-year-old Delhi infant raped immediately after the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape. The perpetrators used an empty bottle to brutally violate the child – inspired, it seems, by the new violent porn addiction being watched by all and sundry on their smartphones. An activist from Jharkhand state in eastern India reports that 10 and 12-year old boys there are able to download violent phone porn for as little as a couple of pence. The result: an explosion of violent sexual abuse in tribal Jharkhand, where the word rape did not exist in the adivasi languages.

Rape has existed since time immemorial everywhere. In India, Dalit, adivasi and other economically vulnerable women have been raped as a right. And the rapists – whether politicians, priests or the powerful rich – continue to rape with impunity.

‘Did the priests who abused children have the internet to watch porn in the 1960s?’ taunts a dismissive reader. I am a relic, apparently – ignorant, too, without empirical evidence to prove my case. A Chennai judge observed that many marriages in India are falling apart because men want their wives to enact the porn scenes they watch. Divorce on sexual grounds has increased exponentially, civil and family courts report, because of men’s new-found sexual preferences, inspired, apparently, by their birthright to watch porn.

The new rapes, the devastatingly violent ones – although of course every rape is by definition violent – are being directly linked to the violent porn being watched by urban and rural men on their smartphones. The use of a metal rod in the Nirbhaya rape was not ‘normal sex’; it was not even a ‘normal rape’. Watching the violent porn episodes are not for the faint-hearted: they are ugly, brutish and perverted.

It is imperative, nowadays, to always walk the line of being 'cool’, ultra-modern and liberal; meaning the individual’s self-gratification comes first. I think this is an abuse of the term ‘fighting for freedom’. Protecting women and children from violence and sexual abuse is, to me, paramount. And if it means banning harmful porn, so be it. That, to me, is non-negotiable.

Mari Marcel Thekaekara is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu.

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