Oped

Is porn to be blamed?

  • The government’s recent ban on porn sites is a ploy to mask its incompetence
- PURNA KUMAR RANA

Sep 30, 2018-

For the past few weeks, the rise in the number of sexual crimes in Nepal has been drawing international attention, prompting massive protests and shocking millions. Data shows that for the past seven years, 6,627 rape cases were reported in Nepal, out of which  4,589 were rape cases and 2,038 were rape attempts. Estimates show that every year 946 rape cases are reported in Nepal, out of which 78 occur every a month.

Day after day gruesome tales of brutal gang rapes make headlines in Nepal. Some victims are young teenagers, like the 13-year-old Nirmala Pant, while some are older women, like the 57-year-old rape victim in Banepa.  It seems as though  rapes these days have become the new normal in Nepal. And in an attempt to curb this increase in rape crimes, the Nepali government recently released a press statement announcing a ban on porn sites and pornographic materials inside the country. The government believes that the consumption of digital sex in bits and bytes has stimulated innocent Nepali youths to become violent sexual predators.

The government’s argument, however, has no basis in reality. A majority of the sexual assault cases and domestic violence cases reported  in Nepal are found mainly in rural areas that have little or no internet penetration. This fact directly points to the fact that there is absolutely no correlation between people watching pornography with the increasing number of rape cases in the country. If banning porn sites was the solution, then why do sexual violence news make headlines in countries like Afghanistan and China, where porn sites are completely banned?

Anti-porn advocates’ assert that X-rated sites encourage men to commit sexual crimes. But according to findings of what researchers call ‘natural experiments’ statistics that were collected before and after the rise of porn media in different countries tell a different story. According to Christopher J Ferguson, professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M International University, the rate of sexual crime in United States has decreased since the rise of the internet. Same goes with other countries like Denmark, Japan and China. Rape statistics dropped down significantly after the public had access to pornography. Likewise another research published by Anthony D’Amato, law professor at North-western University, shows that between 1980 and 2000 the states with minimum internet pornography access experienced a 53 percent rise in rape cases, whereas the states with maximum porn accessibility witnessed 27 percent drop in rape crimes.

Similarly, various studies done among diverse human civilisations has failed to find any precise correlation between digital erotic content and real world sexual violence against women. As the argument goes, much research evidence has revealed that porn actually functions as a ‘safety valve’ for otherwise violent instinct. For example, if a man finds it difficult to resist his impulses to rape a woman, then surfing porn sites more or less help him release his sexual energy, making him less likely to go out and commit a sexual crime.

Having said that, child pornography and violent sexual contents are a real threat to the moral health of our society, and it needs to be met with  urgent action. For this, the government should initiate digital mechanisms for content validation of porn sites and block selected contents. But to clamp down access to any sort of content that is available on the internet is undemocratic and irrational.  The government should not have the authority to  rob the public of its freedom of choice just to restrict a few sick minds who misuse this digital world of knowledge and entertainment.  It is ludicrous that the government is focusing on issues as trivial as these. At times like these, where the safety of women all over the country is being threatened, the government should be focusing more on the pith of the problem than on announcing bans that will help nobody.

The real solution to ending this chain of heinous crimes is simple: ensure that perpetrators are strictly punished for their crimes. When the guilty are held accountable for their actions, there will be a sense of fear and respect for the justice system, which will make way for harmonious order in society. The government’s focus should not be on playing the blame game, but more on introducing change in gender consciousness and social structure. These are sustainable approaches that may seem insignificant in addressing the current sexual crimes but in the long run these changes will certainly yield a safe environment for women around the country.  

In the midst of the  government’s failure to provide justice to 13-year-old Nirmala Pant  despite such social outcry, this banning of porn is merely a liar’s paradox. Placing the blame on pornography instead of accepting its own incompetence and the failure of its justice system is only a veil the government is using to not address many severe underling issues.  

Rana is a pursuing his Master’s degree in English Literature at Tribhuvan University.  

Published: 30-09-2018 08:17

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