| I have been going through the major headlines of the past weeks and this is what I read, “Egypt’s Islamists press generals to fire government,” “US grants Egypt $1.3 billion” and “El Azhar boycotts constitution drafting.” Then shockingly, I found this in my news alerts “Egypt court orders ban on pornographic websites”.The headline compared to the others seems so trivial and irrelevant, almost comic. Yet, this is sadly one of the very few decisions our Parliament actually managed to take after the January 25th Revolution. It is simply a sad time for Egyptian politics to think that of all pressing decisions the Parliament had to make and never did, they did manage to decide to ban porn.Last week, an Egyptian court has ordered the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to ban pornographic websites to protect our society’s values. A similar ruling has been issued three years ago, but was not enforced as officials argued at the time that filtering systems were not effective, according to AP.
The court order came after a request was made by Younis Makhioun, a member of parliament (MB) from the Salafi Al Nour party, last February.
The request made by the MP seemed like a joke and was widely criticized at the time when other pressing issues were at hand. Pressing issues are currently still at hand, even more critical since the time to draft a constitution has come and the time to elect a new president to run the country is approaching. No concrete decisions were made in the foreign funding case, the issues surrounding the constitution, the court cases against the killers of martyrs during the January 25 events or even the constant state of insecurity in our streets.
And yet, the ban has been ordered by a court, only one month after the MP’s request while other more pressing cases are still hanging in our courts for over a year now.
I personally think that this is the most senseless request that can be made, especially at times like these. I am certainly not an advocate for pornography, but I am an advocate for freedom of information and simple common sense. I am against the ban on pornographic websites because it is an infringement of freedom of information. Since when did banning information work for the betterment of our society?
We cannot restrict content from people, even if it violates the most sacred beliefs. We are human beings, not animals. We have a brain to filter the information we receive, it is up to everybody to choose what they want to see.
This ban also seems irrelevant to the current political situation because everyone knows we have many more problems to focus on. Banning porn should really be the least of our worries now.
Shallow All Around
According to the court ruling, pornographic websites “are poisons spreading immorality” and “destroy all religious beliefs, ethics and moral values.”
But I am not sure how morality will prevail by banning pornographic websites in a society where everything happens under the table.
In our predominantly conservative society, it has been found that Egypt ranked fifth in the world in searching for the term "sex" in 2011, according to Google Trends and at least six pornographic websites ranked among the top 100 sites in Egypt.
Everyone knows that the Internet is not the only way for people to access erotic entertainment. Hiring prostitutes is fairly cheap, and downtown bars or Haram Street are filled with cabarets where the girls performing will be willing to give other privileges to customers. Many prostitutes also often hide under a veil — supposedly the indication of pious women — to escape the police, so we already know by now that still water runs deep.
Besides these adult-entertainment availabilities, you only need to go to the theater or watch a couple of video clips to realize how the music and entertainment industry has been degraded to sexual provocation. Many popular singers have no talent, just bodies shaking and dancing to often meaningless lyrics and people like it.
Just last September 2011 during the Ramadan Eid Holiday, the movie El Haram Street has made unprecedented profits. The film, telling the story of a cabaret dancer and her tribulations paired with crude sexist jokes and sultry dancing performances, held a record for the largest profit in one single day at LE2.1 million.
So I fail to see how banning pornographic websites will stop movies like El Haram Street from being at the top of the charts or end the sexual harassment that the overwhelming majority of women are subjected to almost everyday.
Banning pornographic websites has nothing to do with restoring morality. It is naïve to think that banning pornography, covering up women and separating men from women is the solution to solve society’s problems. It is naïve not to see that it is in fact the excessive attention given to these things that create the taboos that lead to sexual oppression and so more harassment, more objectifying of women. This all ultimately leads to more hits on pornographic websites due to sexual frustration and obsession with sex that even the mention of is taboo to our society. More oppression will simply lead to more obsession with the forbidden.
How about fixing the problem of sexual harassment instead? Or better yet, stopping the savage practice of female genital mutilation? Or fighting domestic violence?
Instead of being obsessed with banning pornographic website, covering women up, making the legal marriage age at 12, and taking away women’s right for khul’, we might as well fix women’s serious issues if there is so much obsession over females.
I personally think that banning porn is only a reflection of how our society has been deteriorating, fixating on shallow and meaningless obsessions instead of fixing core problems. It is just sad.