The Bangladeshi government has approved, and the Parliament is expected to pass, a new anti-pornography law that would reportedly prohibit making or distributing any kind of pornographic material, including such material made available on the Internet.
Those who break the law can expect even a 10-year jail sentence, BBC New reported Monday. Offenders can also receive a fine as high as $6,000. The harsh law is believed to be Bangladesh's first to specifically target the spread of pornography, the news agency said.
Some people have reportedly expressed concern about the government gaining so much control over the nation's morality, according to BBC News.
Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy with a Muslim majority at around 89.5 percent. Although it is a "relatively conservative" society, as described by the BBC, critics in the country seem concerned about their freedoms and the ability of the government to actually implement the law.
Banning pornography all together introduces a question of how the government can monitor the web in order to execute the law, but without breaking privacy rights common to all democracies.
"Privacy is a fundamental human right. It underpins human dignity and other values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech," researcher Arafat Amin wrote in the paper Bangladesh Telecommunication (amendment) Ordinance, 2005: National Security or Infringement on Civil Rights? "It has become one of the most important human rights of the modern age. Privacy is recognized around the world in diverse regions and cultures. It is protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights treaties. Nearly every country in the world includes a right of privacy in its constitution. At a minimum, these provisions include rights of inviolability of the home and secrecy of communications.”
But policing the Internet for illegal activity is a complicated task, as confirmed by the U.S. government's continued attempts to crack down on distributors of child pornography.
"The government has the technology to track the Internet addresses of the suspects," Shorful Alam, CEO of Aamra Network Ltd, a leading IT firm in Dhaka, told the BBC. "But those involved in the porn business tend to be smarter and a step ahead of the officials."
On the other side of the spectrum, worldwide, multiple studies have shown a worrying correlation between pornography and divorces, as well as other negative phenomena. Those may include addiction to pornography and an increase in dangerous sexual behavior, according to Morality in Media an advocacy group. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation 2001 poll, 49 percent of participants of the survey said pornography promotes bad attitudes toward women and encourages viewers to think unprotected sex is okay.
A government spokesman reportedly said the anti-pornography legislation is meant to protect young people and women from the negative influence of pornography, which had spread through the Internet and mobile phone technology "like a disease," according to BBC News.