23-29 Apr, 2013
small world
A Ballot for a Bullet

NEW DELHI ~ The power tussle between the Punjab government and the Congress has found its way into elections of the National Rifle Association of India in Delhi.

Polls have been held over the past four months to elect the general body of the association. Some members seem to have aimed their guns at current president, Raninder Singh, who was contesting the elections for the third time. A trap shooter, Raninder is the son of Punjab Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh, who is also known as the Maharaja of Patiala.

This time, Raninder was up against Punjab’s Revenue Minister Bikram Majithia, a member of the ruling party in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal. Majithia is also the nephew of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Majithia allegedly used the state machinery and police to hinder Raninder from winning a third consecutive time. Majithia still lost in the first phase of polling on 4 March, when Raninder won 517 out of 843 votes to nominate members of the general body. Raninder’s nomination was then contested in the Delhi High Court by Majithia’s allies in the association. On 5 April, the court ruled against the petition and Raninder became president of the association and nominated members of the general body on 6 April.

However, despite having Majithia out of the way, Raninder, popularly known as Tikku, has again not been able to resume office due to a petition filed by Athens Olympics silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the Delhi High Court, alleging a violation of India’s Sports Code. Rathore, who was excluded from the national squad for the London Olympics, has said that the elections were not held in a fair way. Raninder, he argued, shouldn’t have been allowed to stand for the president’s post as he was also the returning officer for the election. While both parties preferred to keep mum on the issue, Rajeev Bhatia, nominated secretary of the association, says the matter will be heard next month. Till then, none of the elected members can hold office.

Take Two
The Case for Porn

Following a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court asking to make watching pornography a non-bailable offence, the Court recently asked the Government for its response. The petition puts the number of such clips accessible to Indians at more than 200 million. We don’t know how that number was arrived at, but it is one porn clip for every six Indians. The petition goes thus: ‘The sexual content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive [than before] and has put our entire society in danger, so also [threatens] public order in India.’ You are immediately struck by two questions—how does porn put society in danger and how can it be a threat to public order? The petition’s answer is this: ‘The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography. The worrying issue is [that] the severity and gravity of the images is increasing.’

The second line might be half-true. We don’t know whether the severity and gravity of pornography has increased, but no one can dispute that it is much more accessible. In earlier times, people had to struggle to get their porn but usually succeeded in finding a supplier—a friend, cousin, video rental or street hawker. It is easier now with Google search. However, that porn fuels sexual violence against women is a leap of logic. The petition describes the process in not so scientific terms: ‘Offenders’ minds are mostly fuelled by pornography as the sexual offender or rapist achieves his gratification not from sexual release alone but also from the thrill of domination, control and power.’

There might be some unintended irony in there. Online porn, including severe and graphic porn, probably does the opposite and decreases sexual violence. The most famous study on this was done by Todd Kendall, an economist at Clemson University in the US. He looked at growth of access to net porn and made a correlation with rape cases. He found an inverse relationship: rape cases went down. He also checked its correlation with murder cases and found none. He noted: ‘Specifically, the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in internet access is associated with a decline in reported rape victimisation of around 7.3 per cent.’ Kendall’s is a widely quoted study, but it is not the only one. A 2011 Scientific American article titled ‘The Sunny Side of Smut’ gave an overview of many such studies. It quoted two papers that questioned the belief that porn promoted sexism and negative attitudes to women. Another study by Texas Tech University even showed the opposite: that porn might fuel positive attitudes towards women. The article said, ‘Although consumers of pornography did not display more negative attitudes toward women, they were more likely than other respondents to believe that women should be protected from harm—what the investigators call “benevolent sexism”.’ Another study by a Northwestern University professor showed net access reducing the number of rape cases. ‘Within the US, the states with the least Internet access between 1980 and 2000—and therefore the least access to Internet pornography—experienced a 53 per cent increase in rape incidence, whereas the states with the most access experienced a 27 per cent drop in the number of reported rapes,’ said the report.

All these might sound counter-intuitive and, for feminists, also offensive. But most of these studies are by hardnosed academics with no hidden ideology and have used tested empirical methods.

It is true that there are also studies that seem to show porn’s role in increasing sexual violence. But since the question is whether to make watching porn a non-bailable offence, there is enough research out there to support not doing it until the link is shown to be scientifically conclusive. There is also the complete impracticality of enforcing it. Some years ago, some Mumbai policemen had found a new form of part-time employment. They would catch random teenagers, check their mobiles for the inevitable porn clips and extort money from them. A petition like this would please such policemen. But that is not a good enough reason to take it seriously.

Not Again
Kubrick and the Fake Moon Landing

The late Stanley Kubrick is one of Hollywood’s great directors. The hidden meanings and symbolism in his films continue to be debated by fans the world over. Kubrick stayed away from such discussions, preferring that viewers interpret films themselves. A new documentary, Room No 237, questions whether Kubrick helped the US government fake the Apollo 11 moon landing, and suggests that he may have used the filming of his 2001: A Space Odyssey as research before creating the moon landing footage for the US government. The documentary also theorises that Kubrick’s The Shining was an indirect apology to people for misleading them with a bogus moon landing.