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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:43 GMT
Bangladesh concern over porn spread
Cover of a porn video
Soft core blue movies are freely available in Dhaka
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By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka
The Bangladesh Home Minister, Altaf Hossain Choudhury, says that he is growing increasingly concerned about the spread of video pornography.

We have never really had this problem in the country before

Altaf Hossain Choudhury, Home Minister

In an interview with BBC, Mr Choudhury said that the covert sale of pornographic videos, VCDs and DVDs was offensive to most people in the country.

He said that anyone caught selling such movies in future would be harshly punished.

"We have never really had this problem in the country before," he said, "but now it appears that one or two people or agencies are selling pornography all over Bangladesh."

"I want to say that drastic legal measures will be taken against them so that this sort of material will be closed down for ever."

Tough task

But Mr Choudhury faces an uphill battle. Soft core blue movies are freely available in some of Dhaka's smartest shopping plazas.

A shop shelf full of porn videos
Efforts are on to check under-the-counter sale

"We have three categories on sale under the counter here," one storeholder told me.

"So called Three X films contain male and female organs.

"Two X films contain scenes of nudity, and One X films tend to be soft core with scenes of occasional nudity", he said.

"Most stores in respectable shopping areas do not sell Three X films, but One X films are readily available."

The government's drive against pornography also includes a crackdown against the domestic blue movies market.

Conservative society

Recently there have been a series of press reports in which people have been convicted for filming sex scenes on a digital camera and then selling copies of the film on the black market.

Porn poster
Pornography is "offensive" to Bangladeshis

"I think that what people do in their spare time and in private is up to them", one shopper in one of Dhaka's smartest shopping plazas said.

"After all we are supposed to live in a democracy where people have freedom of choice", he added.

But this urban middle class opinion appears to be very much the minority view.

It appears that most people in the population of 130 million people share the home minister's revulsion of pornography.

Bangladesh remains a conservative Muslim country where single women are encouraged to dress unrevealingly: few single women are allowed to go to a social engagement unaccompanied.

Entrepreneurial spirit

The growth of the porn market in part reflects the can-do attitude of entrepreneurial Bangladeshi middle class retailers.

They are famous in Dhaka and other cities as being able to provide almost any goods that the customer requests.

"But this is one area where our entrepreneurial spirit may have to be stifled," said Mr Choudhury.

"Because in our view, pornography is deeply harmful to society and against the fundamental tenets of our religion", he said.

See also:

11 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh law and order promise
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh cracks down on crime
10 Dec 01 | South Asia
Dhaka lynchings spread alarm
09 May 01 | South Asia
Dhaka police fear crime wave
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