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SexualCrimeinIndia:IsitInfluencedbyPornography?

IndianJPsycholMed.2014AprJun36(2):147152.

PMCID:PMC4031582

doi:10.4103/02537176.130976

SexualCrimeinIndia:IsitInfluencedbyPornography?
SureshBadaMath,BijuViswanath,AmiSebastianMaroky,NaveenC.Kumar,AnishV.Cherian, 1andMariaChristine
Nirmala2
DepartmentofPsychiatry,NationalInstituteofMentalHealthandNeurosciences(NIMHANS),Bangalore,Karnataka,India
1
PsychiatricSocialWork,NationalInstituteofMentalHealthandNeurosciences(NIMHANS),Bangalore,Karnataka,India
2
PrivateMultinationalCompany,NationalInstituteofMentalHealthandNeurosciences(NIMHANS),Bangalore,Karnataka,India
Addressforcorrespondence:Dr.SureshBadaMath,DepartmentofPsychiatry,NationalInstituteofMentalHealthandNeurosciences
(NIMHANS),(DeemedUniversity),Bangalore560029,Karnataka,India.Email:nimhans@gmail.com
Copyright:IndianJournalofPsychologicalMedicine
ThisisanopenaccessarticledistributedunderthetermsoftheCreativeCommonsAttributionNoncommercialShareAlike3.0Unported,which
permitsunrestricteduse,distribution,andreproductioninanymedium,providedtheoriginalworkisproperlycited.

Abstract
Purpose:

Studiesonwhetherpornographyposesagreaterriskforsexuallyaggressivebehaviorhaverevealed
conflictingresults.Thisstudyaimstoexaminetherelationshipbetweentheconsumptionofpornographyand
thesubsequentincreaseinsexualviolence,thustestingthehypothesisthatincreaseinconsumptionof
pornographyisrelatedtoincreasedsexualcrime,intheIndianscenario.
MaterialsandMethods:

Thecurrentstudyexploredtheassociationbetweenreportedincidenceofcrimeoveraperiodoffour
decades19712008(timeperiodsbeingdividedinto:PreliberalizationandpostliberationIndiaadopted
liberalizationpolicyin1992)andavailabilityofpornographyoverinternetwithaparticularfocusoncrime
againstwomen(suchasrape,sexualharassment,andcrimeagainstwomen).
Results:

Comparisonofpreliberalizationandpostliberalizationgrowthofraperateswasnotsignificant.Though
therewerestatisticallysignificantpositivecorrelationsbetweenthenumberofinternetusersandsexualcrime
rates,theassociationwasnonsignificantaftercontrollingfortheeffectsofpopulationgrowthusing
regressionanalysis.
Conclusion:

Resultspresentedneedstobeinterpretedwithextremecareandcaution.Nevertheless,theresultsfromthis
studysuggestthateasyaccesstopornographydidnothaveasignificantimpactonraperatesandcrimerate
againstwomen.
Keywords:Crimeagainstwomen,pornography,sexualbehavior,sexualviolence
INTRODUCTION
EroticisminancientIndiawasawellstudiedconceptasshownbytheKamasutra,writtenbyMallanaga
Vatsyayanasometimeduringthe2ndor5thcentury.[1]Itwasconsideredtobeanintegralpartofadult
educationattime.However,majorchangesappeartohaveoccurredfollowingtheBritishentryanddrafting
oftheIndianPenalCodebyLordMacaulay[2]whereinIndianculturewasadmixedwiththeVictorian
systemofethicalandmoralstandards.Subsequentgrowthofthepornographyindustry,fuelledbytherecent
advancesininformationandtechnology,hasalsofurthershapedthesexcultureinIndia.
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Thepornographyindustryisinvolvedintheproductionanddistributionofsexuallyexplicitmaterials
includingliterature,photos,audio,animation,movies,toys,andvideogames.[3]Themostpopularmodesof
accessaremagazines,compactdiscs,digitalversatilediscs,andtheinternet.Itisestimatedtobea$57
billion/yearindustryworldwidewithitsrevenuebeinglargerthanthecombinedrevenuesofallthe
professions,evenfootball,baseball,andbasketballfranchisesputtogether.[4,5]
TheadventoftheinternetandworldwidewebinIndiahassignificantlyinfluencedpornography
distributionandaccess.Ithasprovidedlegalloopholesandmademonitoringdifficult,aidingthe
manufacturersanddistributors,whilefortheconsumerroundtheclockavailability,easyaccessibilityand
anonymitywereserved.InternetaccessinIndiahasgrownfrom5millionin2004to40millionin2007and
continuestogrowattherateof17%ayear,accordingtowebmetricsfirm.[6]India'sgrowthrateisthethird
highestintheAsiaPacificregion.[6]Alongsidethis,accessingpornographicmaterialhasalsoincreasedwith
12%ofinternetwebsitesbeingrelatedtopornography,andviewersbeingestimatedtospendroughly3000
to4000dollarspersecond.[10]Youngerindividualswerefoundtobemorelikelytousetheinternetbothfor
viewingpornographicmaterialandchat.[7]
Againstthisbackground,thewellknownfeministdictum:Pornographyisthetheoryrapeisthe
practicehasraisedseriousconcern,[8]especiallyamongparentsandpolicymakers.Definingwhat
constitutespornographyplaysacrucialroleinresearch,policy,andlawmaking.PornographyisaGreek
word,whichoriginallymeantwritingaboutprostitutes.[9]Thedefinitionofwhatconstitutespornography
variesconsiderablyacrosspersons,gender,cultures,religions,communities,countries,time,andalsoacross
generations.ThedefinitionusedforthisstudyisamodifiedversionofKuhnetal..2007,[10]whichstates
thatpornographyisacommunicationmaterialprovidedforthepurposeofsexuallyarousingorgratifyinga
userinisolationfromothersorincompanyofothers.
Theexistingliteratureontheeffectsofpornographycanbebroadlycategorizedintothreestudieson
convictedsexoffendersandvictims,laboratorystudies,andgeneralpopulationstudies.
Studiescomparingthoseconvictedforsexoffences(rape,molestation,immoraltrafficking,domestic
violenceetc.)andinternetsexoffendershavefoundcontradictoryresults.Somehavefoundthatinternetsex
offenderswereoflesserrisktothecommunityandhadlowerprevalenceofantisocialvariables,suchas,
actingoutandbreakingsocialrules,[11]whilesomeofthemfoundthattheywereequallydangeroustothe
society.[12]Psychiatricmorbiditywasfoundtobehighinconvictedsexoffenders.[13]Withrespecttothe
roleofpornographyincommissionofsexualoffencesalso,therearevaryingresultsfromhavingonlya
minorrole[14]toprimaryinvolvementwherechildvictimsareinvolved.[15]Partnersofbatteredwomen
havebeenreportedtohavereadorviewedsignificantlygreateramountsofpornographicmaterialsthanthose
inacomparisongroup,[16,17]whileamongsurvivorsatarapecrisiscenter,28%reportedthattheirabuser
usedpornographyandthatfor12%,pornographywasimitatedduringtheabusiveincident.[18]However,a
strongcriticismofthesestudiesisthatthepopulationsurveyedisnotrepresentativeofthetrueconsumer.
Laboratorystudiesinvolverecruitmentofvolunteerswhoundergoassessments(suchastheirattitudeto
women,violence,rape,aggression,andsex)preandpostexposuretopornography.[19,20,21]Results
indicatedthattheaggressivepornographicmaterialsincreaseaggressionagainstfemales.[22]However,
personalityandsubstanceusewerefoundtobeconfounders.[23,24]Behavioraldisturbancesthatoccurred
postexposurewereinindividualswhoshowedmoreglobaldisturbancesofpersonality.[25]Themajor
drawbackoftheselaboratorystudieswasagainthatvolunteersmaynotberepresentativeofconsumersina
societyandthatthestudieswereshortterm.Theimpactofmultipleexposures,durationofexposure,pre
exposurepersonality,andlongtermeffectonapersonhadnotbeenstudied.
Generalpopulationstudiesincludesurveysofconsumersandindirectdataincludingcomparisonof
consumptionofpornographicmaterialinasocietyagainstreportedlevelsofsexcrimesinthatpopulation.
Thesestudiesassesstheprevalenceofviolenceafterexposuretopornographyusingquestionnaires.[26]
Somehavereportedthatexposuretopornographyontheinternetcanbedescribedasanormative
experience.[27]Itappearsthatlikeallotherstimuli,pornographydoesnothaveasingle,homogenouseffect
onallconsumers.[28]Theoverallfindingsinastudyofselfperceivedeffectsofpornographyconsumption
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inDenmarksuggestthatmanyyoungadultsbelievethatpornographyhashadprimarilyapositiveeffecton
variousaspectsoftheirlivessuchastheirsexualknowledge,attitudestowardsex,attitudetowardsand
perceptionoftheoppositesex,sexlife,andgeneralqualityoflife.[29,30]AstudyoftheUnitedStatesof
America(USA),Denmark,Sweden,andWestGermanyduringtheperiod19641984showedthattherewas
noincreaseinraperatesinthefaceofevidencethatduringthisperiod,theavailabilityofvariousformsof
pornographyhaddevelopedfromextremescarcitytorelativeabundance.[31,32]Ontheotherhand,arecent
metaanalysisshowedanoverallsignificantpositiveassociationbetweenpornographyuseandattitudes
supportingviolenceagainstwomen.[33]
Thus,therelationbetweenconsumptionofpornographyandsexualviolenceremainsinconclusive.Inview
ofitsimpactonpolicymakingandjudicialdecisionmakingprocess(freedomofspeechvisvisregulating
thebehaviorofanindividualinprivate),thisissueneedstobefurtherexplored.Thisstudyaimstotestthe
hypothesisthatincreaseinconsumptionofpornographyisrelatedtoincreasedsexualcrime,intheIndian
scenario.
MATERIALSANDMETHODS
ThereportedcrimeratesinIndiaparticularlywithreferencetosexualcrimesandcrimeagainstwomenover
afourdecadeperiodwerecriticallyreviewed.
Dataextraction

CrimeinIndiaisanannualpublicationoftheNationalCrimeRecordsBureau,[34]MinistryofHome
Affairs,GovernmentofIndiawithanobjectivetomakeavailablepanIndiacrimerelateddatainoneplace
forallstakeholders.Thenearregularpublicationhelpstocharttrendsandguidepolice,otheragencies,and
policymakerstoprevent,contain,andcombatcrime.Bothnationalandstatelevelstatisticsonmajor
cognizablecrimes,localActs,andspeciallawsapplicableinthecountryarereportedalongwithdistrictwise
statisticsofthemajorcognizablecrimesundertheIndianPenalCode(IPC).Relevantdata(rape,sexual
harassment,totalcrimeagainstwomen,andthepercentageoftotalcrimesthatweredirectedagainstwomen)
wasextracted.Theavailabledatawhichspannedfourdecadeswasbroadlydividedintotwotimeperiods
preliberalization(before1991)andpostliberalization(after1991).Liberalizationreferstotheeconomic
reformsin1991,whichallowedtheIndianmarkettoopentradeleadingtoexponentialgrowthofthe
electronicsandcommunicationindustry.Inaddition,thetotalnumberofinternetusersperyearinIndiawas
tabulated.[35]Weusedthenumberofinternetusersasasurrogatemeasurefornumberofpornography
consumersbecausethereliableestimatesofthismeasurewereunavailable.Disclaimerandlimitationofthe
datamadeavailablebyNCRBisdisclosedonthewebsite.[34]
Statisticalanalysis

Independentsamplettestwasdonetodetectwhethertherearestatisticaldifferencesincrimeratesbetween
preandpostliberalizationperiods.Pearson'scorrelationanalysiswasusedtofindtherelationshipbetween
internetuseandcrimeagainstwomen.Tocontrolfortheinfluenceofpopulationgrowth,linearregression
wasdoneusingthenumberofRapecasesasthedependentvariabletotalpopulationandothercrimeratesas
independentvariables.
RESULTS
Totalnumberofreportedrapecasesacrossfourdecades

AsdepictedinTable1,therehasbeenaslowandsteadyriseinthenumberofrapesandthetotalnumberof
cognizableoffencesunderIndianpenalcode(IPC)overthelastfourdecades.Comparisonofgrowthofrape
ratesbetweenpreliberalizationandpostliberalizationerawasnonsignificant(MeanSD=7.785.61
versus4.404.76,t=1.97,P=0.06).
Numberofcrimesagainstwomencasesreportedandthetotalnumberofinternetusersacrosslast
15years

AsshowninTable2,intheprecedingdecadeandahalf,theoverallpercentageofcrimesshowedan
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increaserangingfrom3%to9.4%.Therewasalsoevidencetoshowthatvariousformsofcrimesagainst
womenwerealsoincreasing,viz.:Rape,sexualharassments,totalcrimeagainstwomen,andthepercentage
oftotalcrimewhichisdirectedagainstwomen.Therewasalsoaclearriseinthenumberofinternetusers
from1998onwards.
Relationshipbetweenthetotalnumberofinternetusersandcrimesagainstwomen

Therewerestatisticallysignificantpositivecorrelationsbetweennumberofinternetusersandtotalnumber
ofrapes(r=0.857,P<0.002),totalcrimesagainstwomen(r=0.791,P<0.006),andthepercentageof
totalcrimethatwasdirectedagainstwomen(r=0.842,P<0.002).Therewasnocorrelationbetweenthe
numberofinternetusersandtotalnumberofsexualharassmentcases(r=0.335,P=0.313).However,there
wasalsoasignificantpositivecorrelationbetweentotalpopulationandtotalnumberofrapes(r=0.933,P<
0.001),totalcrimesagainstwomen(r=0.95,P<0.001),thepercentageoftotalcrimethatwasdirected
againstwomen(r=0.933,P<0.001),andthetotalnumberofsexualharassmentcases(r=0.844,P<
0.001).Inaddition,totalpopulationpositivelycorrelatedwithnumberofinternetusers(r=0.935,P<
0.001).Hence,tocontrolfortheinfluenceofpopulationgrowth,linearregressionwasdoneusingthe
numberofrapesasthedependentvariabletotalpopulation,numberofinternetusers,andothercrimerates
asindependentvariables.Noneofthevariablesweresignificant.
DISCUSSION
Authorsofthestudywouldliketoemphasizethatthisarticledoesnotattempttotakeadefinitivepositionon
pornographybutrathertoexaminetheavailableevidencetotesttherelationshipbetweenpornographyand
sexualviolence.Thestudycontainedlargeavailabledataandhadaveryspecifichypothesis.However,this
studyhasitsownlimitationsasitreliesonthedatapublishedbyNCRB.Theresultsofthisstudyneedtobe
interpretedcarefullyandcautiouslybecausesexualcrimesarelikelytobeunderreported.Inaddition,the
numberofinternetuserswasusedforanalysisbecausetherewasnoreliablemethodtoestablishthenumber
ofpornographyconsumers.
Inthisstudy,wedidnotfindasignificantrelationshipbetweeninternetuseandsexuallyaggressivebehavior
suchasrape,sexualharassment,andtotalcrimeagainstwomen.Findingsofthisstudyareconsistentwith
thefindingsfromU.S.A.,Denmark,Sweden,andWestGermany,whichreportednosignificantchangein
thecrimerateinrelationtopornographyconsumption.[31,32]However,somestudies,includingarecent
metaanalysis,[33]havefoundpositiveassociationsbetweenconsumptionofpornographyandsexual
aggression.[36]
ItisapopularnotionthatpornographyinfluencesthebehaviorofIndianmenmorethaninothercultures.
Transculturalvariationsaredescribedasthecommonreason.InIndia,anydiscussionaboutsexis
consideredtaboo,andmostpeopledonothaveevenbasicsexeducation.Sexeducationprovidesfactual
informationaboutsexuality,whichcounteractsthemessagesaboutsexualitypresentedinpornography.[37]
Withoutadequatesexeducation,itissuggestedthatpornographywouldservetoactasapermissiongiving
agencybypromotingwrongnotionsaboutthesexualityofwomenandchildren,thusbreedingsexual
violence.[36]However,thesenotionsaremostlynotsupportedbyevidence.Hence,itisnotsurprisingto
notethatsucharelationshipcouldnotbeestablishedinthisstudy.Aspreviouslystated,thisfindingissimilar
tostudiesinEuropeancountriesandtheUSA.Ithasbeensuggestedthatpornographymightactasan
aphrodisiacformalesratherthanablueprintforrape.[31,32]Theabilitytoreleasesexualtensionby
masturbationfollowingpornographyconsumptionmightreducethepossibilityofrealtimesexualaggression
orrape.Itseemsthatthemuchhypedcausalrelationshipbetweenpornographyandsexualbehaviorisan
exaggerationbypoliticiansandmassmedia.
Followingreasonscanbeattributedtotheinconclusiveresultsacrossstudies:Sexualityitselfbeinga
dynamicphenomenonvarieswithincommunityandalsoacrosscommunity.Othersreasonscanbeattributed
tomethodologyofthestudiessuchasstudysample,samplingmethodanddefinitionofpornography,trans
culturaldimensionssuchas,variationinlegalsystemsandawareness,perceptionofsexualcrime,anddegree
oftolerancetosuchbehavior.Stigmaandsystematicunderreportingofsexualcrimebythesurvivorsalso
couldhaveplayedasignificantrole.
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Futureresearchneedstofocusonlongitudinalresearchtoevaluatehowexposuretopornographyinfluences
youthattitudesandsexualbehaviors.[38]However,becauseofethicalconstraints,itisdifficulttoconduct
studiesinchildrenandadolescentsabouttheexposuretopornography.
Theindicator,crimeagainstwomen,measurementmaynotbetheappropriateonetomeasuretheimpactof
pornographyonthesociety.Otherindicatorssuchasabortionrate,teenagepregnancyrate,prevalenceof
sexuallytransmitteddiseases,schoolandcollegesdropout,timespentinprocuringandwatching,internet
andpornographyaddiction,changingpatternsoffamily,childmarriagerate,impactonmarriage,divorce
rate,domesticviolence,childandwomantrafficking,tourismandeconomyneedstobeexploredbefore
comingtoanyconclusion.
However,inthecurrentsituationofpaucityofdataandsystematicstudies,thecurrentdatapresentstheonly
waytomeasuresexualaggression.Eventhoughtheresultsofthepresentstudyarebynomeansconclusive,
itsuggestsavenuesforfurtherdebate,discussion,andempiricalresearchintotheeffectsofpornographyon
otherindicators.Oneofthepossiblemethodstoatleastminimizetheeffectofpornographyistopromotesex
educationinschoolsandcolleges.Thereisanimmediateneedtoinculcatesexeducationinthecurriculumin
ordertopreventthedevelopmentofwrongnotionsaboutsexualityamongadolescents.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
AuthorswouldliketosincerelythanktheofficersandstaffofthestatisticalbranchoftheNationalCrime
RecordsBureau,MinistryofHomeAffairs,India,whohavedoneacommendablejobbycompilingthe
crimereportsandpublishinginpublicdomain.
Footnotes
SourceofSupport:Nil
ConflictofInterest:Nonedeclared.

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FiguresandTables
Table1

Totalnumberofreportedrapecases,naturalgrowthrateofpopulation,andgrowthrateofcognizablecrimes
underIndianPenalCodeacrossfourdecades(Indiaadoptedliberalizationpolicyin1992)
Table2

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Numberofcrimeagainstwomencasesreportedandthetotalnumberofinternetusersacrosslast15years
ArticlesfromIndianJournalofPsychologicalMedicineareprovidedherecourtesyofMedknowPublications

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