India Porn Ban: Sexual Assault, Not Porn, Is The Problem in India

The international media turned out in force to report on the brutal gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey last December, and reports of the Indian government’s response to the massive public outcry have been trickling out since: a fast-track court, a 600-page intensive report, a new 24/7 hotline, and so on.

What’s slipped under the radar is the fact that the number of rapes reported since Pandey’s rape has skyrocketed. Just last week, we learned of a 5-year-old girl held in a room without food or water for two days, subjected to horrific and repeated rapes. The parents were refused police help in locating their missing child, and even after the child was returned, the police tried to hush up the crime, telling the parents they should be grateful their daughter was alive. When news of this horror began to spread, protests erupted in Delhi, creating yet another scandal – a senior police official was caught on video slapping a young female protester.


In light of these incidents (and similar ones in the recent past), many Indians feel as though the government is not taking enough action. One such man, advocate Vijay Panjwani, is petitioning the government to ban the consumption of all pornography in India. This petition is gaining a lot of traction.

But porn is not the problem.

Watching porn does not create sexually-crazed rapists. Empirically, data shows us that rates of porn availability and sexual assault are actually inversely correlated – that is, as access to porn increases, rates of sexual assault decrease. Research also tells us that those negatively impacted by porn are those already troubled or from dysfunctional backgrounds. In fact, sex criminals are more likely to come from strict religious homes and less likely to have viewed pornography. Banning pornography will not reduce the number of rapes in India.

More importantly, in an Indian context, banning porn is just further sexual repression in a society that is already heavily segregated by gender. When men are separated from women most of their lives, and when women are generally treated as second-class citizens, it’s easier to objectify and abuse women because they’re literally seen as less human. Rape is not just about sexual gratification but power and control, which in India happens to look like men raping women and girls with borderline impunity. Banning pornography does nothing to change the mindset that women are worth less than men.  

And none of this even begins to address the resources required to enforce this ban, which is likely impossible to fully implement anyway.

Banning pornography is the easy way out. It’s a no-brainer for Indian politicians, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by upholding their “traditional” values and by pretending they are actively fighting sexual crimes. It also requires basic, measurable action, though it stands no chance of fulfilling its goal.

The real solutions that would make a difference, like ensuring the education of girls (the best investment a developing country can make) or revamping the police force to take sexual assault seriously, are much harder to implement and take much longer to see results. It’s a hell of a lot easier to ban porn.

The state of women in India is a serious concern, especially for a country that wants to join the global elite. But until India stops messing around with dumb scapegoat ideas and until it gets serious about changing the status quo, I’ll keep repeating what should be obvious by now: Porn is not the problem – the cultural mindset is.