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Bangladesh Blocks 560 Porn Sites

Image by Geralt via Pixabay. From Public Domain.

Image by Geralt via Pixabay. From Public Domain.

The Bangladeshi government has launched a campaign against objectionable Internet content by blocking 560 pornography websites, most of which are locally hosted. Internet service providers, gateway and mobile service providers were given a list of these websites, which has yet to be disclosed to the media.

Earlier this year, Bangladeshi authorities indicated their intention to block porn sites, which provoked mixed reactions. According to Tarana Halim, the State Minister of Posts and Telecommunication, easy access to pornography and offensive content is creating a negative social impact on all the citizens, including adolescents.

According to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, the number of Internet users in the country has risen to more than 62 million (out of a population of approximately 160 million). Ninety-five percent of those online access the Internet via mobile devices. And almost 30% of mobile data is reportedly used to visit porn sites. A recent survey by Manusher Jonno Foundation, an NGO, found that almost 77 per cent of the capital’s schoolchildren watch pornography via mobile phone and other means.

In November 2016, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication formed a committee whose mandate is to make recommendations to restrict access to the porn sites. Thus far, it appears its primary solution has been to propose blocking such websites.

The committee submitted the list of 560 porn websites that were recently blocked. The ban instigated mixed reactions from netizens. Blogger Arifur Rahman in a Facebook post wrote:

…যৌনতা নিয়ে একদিকে ধর্মীয় কুৎসিত পাপবোধের জর্জরিত মেয়েটি যখন শ্বেতাঙ্গী নাট্যপটিয়সীর অবাস্তব পর্নো দেখে অদ্ভূত অবাস্তব আকঙ্খা-জর্জরিত বাদামী চামড়ার ছেলেটির সাথে জীবনে প্রথমবারের মতো যৌনতার মুখোমুখি, তখন আনাড়ী নারীর কাছ থেকে যে বিপুল আশাভঙ্গ হয় ছেলেটির, অথবা ছেলেটির অবাস্তব দাবিতে একদিকে মুষড়ে পড়া মেয়েটি নিজের অনাবিষ্কৃত যৌনতাকে আরো বেশি ঘৃনা করতে থাকে।

ফলাফল কারো জন্যই ভালো নয়। সুস্থ যৌনতা দরকার, এর সাথে স্বাস্থ্যের গুরুত্বপূর্ণ যোগ রয়েছে।

When a girl with ugly religious guilt have sex for the first time with a boy filled with anticipation from watching Caucasian skilled porn artists perform weird and unreal acts, the boy faces a wall of disappointment and the girl breaks down from the unreal demand of the boy. The girl hates her unexplored sexuality more than ever.

The result is not good for anyone. We need healthy sexuality, it has significant connection with good health.

B M Mainul Islam, an Assistant Professor at Institute of Information Technology, University of Dhaka wrote:

সত্যি কথাটা হচ্ছে, দেশে না বিদেশে জেনারেট হচ্ছে সেটা বড় কথা নয়। সব যদি বন্ধ করা না যায়, তাহলে মঙ্গল গ্রহে পর্ন জেনারেট হলেও সেটা যার খুঁজে নেয়ার সে খুঁজে নেবে। পর্ন একটা সমস্যা সেটাতে সন্দেহ নেই। কিন্তু, সেটাই এখন আমাদের প্রায়োরিটি কিনা সেটা ভেবে দেখার বিষয় আছে। যে সিদ্ধান্তগুলো নেয়া হচ্ছে সেগুলো নিয়ে বিশদভাবে পড়ে দেখার সুযোগ আমার হয়নি, তাই মন্তব্য করছি না। কিন্তু, এটা নিশ্চিত যে, সিদ্ধনাতগুলো ড্যাটা ড্রিভেন না। অ্যাট লিস্ট পত্রিকার খবর পড়েতো তাই মনে হচ্ছে।

The truth is, whether it is generated in the country or abroad, is not the issue. If you can't block all sites, those who need to find a porn made in Mars will find it. There is no doubt that porn is a problem. Whether it is a priority now—is something to consider. The decisions are being taken, I did not get the chance to read them in detail, so I can not comment. However, it is certain that these decisions are not data driven. At least this is what it seems from reading the newspaper reports.

While the Ministry was waiting for the report by the committee, a misquote of the State Minister for Posts and Telecommunication earlier created confusion and divided people in Bangladesh. Media misrepresented Telecommunications Minister Tarana Halim, quoting her as saying that authorities devised a mechanism that would expose porn consumers, an approach she believed would deter people from logging into porn sites, for fear they would be exposed.

The news created confusion and generated angry reactions from people. On 13 December the Minister published a statement on Facebook, explaining that she had been misquoted:

পর্ন সাইটের প্রবেশকারীদের নামের তালিকা করার কোন কথা কখনই বলিনি। এটি হবেও না। টেকনিক্যালিও সম্ভব নয়। মানুষের পরিচয় তথা ব্যক্তিগত তথ্যের সুরক্ষা দিতে আমরা বাধ্য ও বদ্ধপরিকর।

I have never mentioned that the list of names of porn website visitors will be published. Technically it is not possible. We're bound and committed to protecting private information and identity of people.

Pornography and the law in Bangladesh

In 2012, Bangladeshi government approved an anti-pornography law which includes prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines up to half a million Taka. The Pornography Control Act prohibits “carrying, exchanging, using, selling, marketing, distributing, preserving, filming” pornography in Bangladesh.

World Map of The Legal Status of Pornography. Image via Wikipedia, public domain

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, where many people have expressed concerns about the spread and consumption of online pornography. But it is also a democracy.

It appears that the government is focused on banning porn sites in order “protect young people and women from pornography”. But many in Bangladesh believe the government is trying to set standards of public morality. There is also no guarantee that blocking certain pornography sites will actually decrease porn consumption in the country. As one commenter put it, the government “needs to focus more on providing sex education to its citizens instead of hunting down porn sites.”

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