Proliferation of pornographic material is one more reason for rising sexual violence against women, says a study

In the recent debate on sexual violence against women, one aspect which didn’t get adequate attention was the extent to which the rapid proliferation of pornography is responsible for the increasing frequency as well as cruelty of the violence inflicted on women. Perhaps one reason for this was the relative absence of well-documented studies on this issue in India. However, studies from abroad supported by sporadic evidence from India can help to increase our understanding of this important aspect of sexual violence.

Although more studies are available from western countries, what is particularly significant in the present context is the evidence from Japan as here we have a situation where other crimes show a decreasing trend but sexual crimes have increased in a period of rapid increase of access to pornography.

According to a study titled ‘Pornography, prostitution and women’s human rights in Japan’ undertaken by Seiya Morita for the Anti-Pornography and Prostitution Research Group, Japan has emerged as a leading centre for generating pornographic material where about 30,000 titles of pornographic videos and about 400 titles of pornographic games are put in the market every year with multi-thousand copies of each video and game.

Up to the mid-1980s, all crimes including sexual crimes, were declining in Japan. However, from mid-1980 onwards as access to pornography increased, the trends changed and sexual crimes started increasing in the 1990s . This trend exists in India as well where the years of rapid increase of access to pornography are also the years of rapid rise in sexual crimes.

In Japan, a rare nationwide study was carried out in 1997-98 that surveyed persons suspected by police in rape and indecent assault incidents. They were asked a question, “When watching a pornographic video did you also want to do the same thing.” Thirty-four per cent of all suspects answered in the affirmative. Among juvenile suspects, 50 per cent answered in the affirmative. Although such an extensive survey has not been conducted in India, there have been sporadic reports about exposure of several suspects to pornography as well as statements of police officers that culprits told them about the impact of pornographic materials.

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