Allure of the forbidden

Ahmed Shatil Alam explores the probable reasons behind the easy accessibility of porn sites from Bangladesh despite a promise by the Telecommunications and Postal state minister to block all such sites in April

forbiddenIn April, a news was reported by the national media quoting the state minister for Postal and Telecommunication ministry advocate Tarana Halim that within a week all the porn sites will be blocked in the country. The minister made this assertion in a reply to a comment posted on her verified facebook page, when a person named MA Amin Khan requested Tarana Halim to shut all porn sites through a comment he made under a status posted by the minister. Halim’s response to the comment was: ‘We will shut all kind of pornographic sites by this week.’
After the news broke out, many people agreed with the minister’s decision and lauded her for taking such decisions that can eventually save people from ‘various hazards’. Others, however, criticised the minister for the potential move.
Three months have passed since then but the decision is yet to be implemented. Thousands of porn sites can be accessed from any corner of the country where internet is available.
Such sites can corrupt the minds and livelihoods of those who access, especially the young people. For the last one month New Age Xtra have found at least more than 200 porn sites that can be viewed in Bangladesh. But among them seven to nine were most searched from Banglades. These sites are operated by PornHub, a USA-based adult content site group.
forbidden2According to, Alexa – a venture of technology giant Amazon, a porn-site was positioned at 15th among the top searched sites from Bangladesh during the last week, while at least seven others were aming the top 100 websites searched from Bangladesh.
According to Pornography Control Act 2012, production, marketing, conservation, supply, display, filming, purchase and sales of pornographic materials are prohibited. Anyone breaching this Act will be sentenced to 2 to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and will also be fined Tk1 lakh to Tk 5 lakhs. But, interestingly, the act does not address the content offered by internet based porn-sites.
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) published a report on pornography in 2013. Citing a study conducted by Manusher Jonno Foundation, the report revealed that people of different ages download pornographic contents worth Tk 3 crore from cyber cafes in Dhaka every month.
The study also found shocking information that 77 per cent porn viewers are children while teenage boys and girls as well as students of schools and colleges are the biggest victims of porn addiction.
According to information technology experts, with the emergence of mobile based internet at an affordable price, people can now access porn from their cellphones and other handheld devices. A recent research claimed that watching porn is not a secret, rather a widespread practice among school-goers in Dhaka city.
Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation conducted a survey on a total of 30 students of a Dhaka school. Researchers found that among them, 29 use mobiles and around 86 per cent students are addicted to pornographic films.
Although, according to PornHub’s 2015 porn review study Bangladesh is still far behind other South Asian countries including India and Pakistan, it is still in danger as the site described South Asia as a potential market for their adult contents.
In Bangladesh, however, experts think that the decision of the minister is very timely and blocking such sites will be possible. They think that if Bangladesh wants they can start some anti porn protection programme under which they can ban the option for searching for porn sites in search engines. IT expert and Fiber at Home’s chief strategy officer Sumon Sabirul Islam told New Age Xtra that such initiative is possible by the government.
‘Although this task is not so easy to initiate, it is possible by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and other government organisations to block them over time,’ he says. He also shares that Singapore, China and some Middle Eastern Countries are taking similar steps.
He feels that the government is possibly not willing to take such measures and simply providing lip-service on the issue.
An IT teacher at a private university says, the main obstacle toward implementing such a decision are the telecom operators whose ‘sale of internet data can fall drastically if such a decision becomes a reality’ he says.
Echoing his views, Sabirul Islam says, ‘the main internet business relies on downloading and video streaming. Maximum of this can be attributed to porn’.
When contacted Tarana Halim informs that the decision is yet to be finalised but the matter is in process. ‘We are working on the issue…but the final decision is yet to be taken,’ she says.

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