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Child porn still blocked, but India otherwise loosens national ban on porn

Proving just how seriously freedom-of-expression rights are taken across the world, the government in India has been forced to loosen its ban on porn sites following a public outcry against the administration’s move to shutter some 857 adult sites. Over the weekend, administrators decided to block a multitude of such outlets, with would-be porn watchers greeted with either blank pages or the message, “The site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority,” when attempting to visit frequented pages.

While it was unclear over the weekend whether or not the government was actually behind the national outages, it has since become rather obvious that the Modi administration made an ill-fated attempt at curbing their citizenry’s viewing habits, and has lost the battle — as Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told India Today TV, “A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned.”

This clampdown on child pornography certainly follows a much-needed trend, spearheaded by companies like Google that have promised to remove child pornography search results from its engine. But the people of India did not buy that the porn industry as a whole could be ousted on the grounds of being “immoral and indecent,” and after rebukes from all sides (as well as expert warnings that such a move might only strengthen the black market porn industry), the government has stepped back a bit.

Related: Former Law & Order director Jace Alexander charged with possession of child pornography

In a tweet, Chetan Bhagat noted, “Don’t ban porn. Ban men ogling, leering, brushing past, groping, molesting, abusing, humiliating and raping women. Ban non-consent. Not sex. Porn ban is anti-freedom, impractical, not enforceable. Politically not very smart too. avoidable. Let’s not manage people’s private lives.”

While this sentiment is one that has been echoed by numerous critics of the weekend ban, the short-lived edict did have its supporters. Kamlesh Vaswani, a high-profile Indian lawyer, applauded the initial decision, saying, “Nothing can more efficiently destroy a person, fizzle their mind, evaporate their future, eliminate their potential or destroy society like pornography. It is worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic. It is more catastrophic than nuclear holocaust, and it must be stopped.”

Unfortunately for Vaswani, the people at large have expressed their dissent, and as the world’s largest democracy, it seems that India has, for now, acquiesced to the demands of the Indian citizenry. But with gender politics and sexual liberties a constant hot-button issue in India, the next chapter in the struggle has yet to be written.