India: Church begins nationwide survey to understand porn users

The survey is being conducted by the Snehalaya Family Service Centre, a not-for-profit run by the Archdiocese of Bombay. Photograph:( Getty )

DNA New Delhi, India Jan 03, 2017, 04.10 AM (IST)

By Ashustosh M Shukla

The Archdiocese of Bombay has started a nationwide online survey that looks at understanding viewers of pornography in India. The survey aims to take forward an earlier endeavour by the Roman Catholic Church to gain an insight into the stages when youngsters and adults get exposed to pornography. However, that survey was restricted to Mumbai.

Called Plague of Pornography, the present one is an online survey which seeks responses primarily from people in the 15 to 25 age group, as well as people above 25. The identity of those who participate will be kept confidential.

"At present, we hear a lot of things about pornography. While there are studies being done on porn and its effects outside India, nothing has been taken up here. We have not done any study on porn users, and hence, we wanted to do one," said Fr Cajeton Menezes, director of Snehalaya Family Service Centre, who has started the year-long survey.

Snehalaya Family Service Centre is a not-for-profit NGO that helps families in Mumbai. It is run by the Archdiocese of Bombay. It calls the survey a part of its commitment and work to build and strengthen families of not just Catholics but also of all other communities that approach the centre.

It was in the counselling centres — where the Church looks to ensure that marriages last — that they realised the need to study the porn issue closer. The Church stands for saving marriages unless there was some pre-existing problem that was not known and due to which a marriage needed to be annulled. "What we saw during counselling sessions was that there were more and more cases of erectile dysfunction, partners fulfilling their need by watching porn, husbands forcing their wives to watch porn and also enact steps. All this was leading to breaking of marriages. With internet speed going up by the day and incidents like the Nirbhaya and Mahalakshmi rape cases indicating usage of porn among minors, we thought we should have a study on the porn users of India," said Menezes.

Besides looking at the male porn users, the study also aims to have an understanding of female users. In the earlier survey, the findings stated that boys and girls had seen pornography for the first time when they were in class five and eight respectively. "This study also looks at figuring out addiction among women. Women addiction patterns are different. They are not so much into graphic but more into literature," added Menezes.

The other aspects of the study will be place of access of porn, how deep the users go into it, the genre, role of porn in marriage and life, post-porn effects, methods tried to de-addict, being open about watching porn, money and time spent, inclination towards religion and the self-esteem of the person. "The aim is to understand the addicts and their practices. Some people surf porn in offices and waste work hours. Questions will also gauge how they feel about themselves and their self-esteem, whether it is high or low," said Dr Trudy Dantis, research consultant who has put together the questions and will be structuring the report when responses are close to 5,000.

"Through the study, we will also come to know if the problem is overrated or underrated. Once the study is complete, the report will be given to counsellors or psychiatrists who help people come out with answers on preventive programmes," said Allwyn Dantis, project co-ordinator of the Plague of Pornography.

"We want to complete the survey with good response. But what we see is that a number of people are not answering all the questions. Their identities will not be disclosed," said Menezes.

(This article first appeared in DNA)