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Are Sex Toys Banned or Illegal in India?

Are Sex Toys Banned or Illegal in India?

“Is buying a vibrator legal in India?” 

“Is owning a vibrator legal in India?”

“Are you opening a sex shop?” 

“Don't you think selling vibrators online will get you in trouble?”

“How can you sell anal toys like butt plugs?”

“Is the packaging discreet?”

“I tried ordering it online but it got confiscated at customs! They told me it’s illegal”

These have been the most frequently asked questions since the inception of Sangya Project. While we and our customers have come a long way since then, it’s important to explain the legality surrounding the sale of vibrators online along with other sex toys, given how the topic appears to be shrouded in confusion.

My name is Shweta Sangtani. I have practiced law for 13 years as a litigating lawyer, I am also the co-founder of Sangya Project. 

With the taboo surrounding anything to do with sex and sexuality in India, it's hardly a mystery that there isn't enough clarity on the legality of this industry. If you try googling whether sex toys are legal in India, you’re likely to leave more confused than when you began. 

Let me help you clarify all your doubts. 

Are sex toys banned in India?

No, they are not.

Is owning or buying a vibrator illegal?

Short answer?  No. It is not illegal.

Are Sex Toys Lawful in India?

India does not prohibit the use of sexual toys. But interpretation of its use introduces ambiguous meanings. Importations. The provisions of the Customs Act prohibit importation of products in accordance with their purpose set out in Section 2 of the Act. This includes maintaining public order and moral standards. Thus India has an expansive interpretation of liberty to decide what violates common sense and ethics. Unfortunately the legislation allows the Govt. to decide what imports are authorized in India. Sell Sex toys.

Why is there such a big misconception about legality?

It’s because of the “Obscenity Law”. When there is a conversation about “Are sex toys or vibrators illegal?”, people are referring to section 294 of the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita (erstwhile IPC). This Section states that any kind of sale or promotion of obscene “art, literature or other objects" is illegal.

Even though the provision clearly speaks about art and written material, confusion seems to arise with the word “object”. The word object in this context cannot be interpreted to mean a vibrator or a sex toy.

The “object” here means something in line with the words preceding it i.e. a painting or even a book. So technically, selling commodities like sex toys, vibrators or fleshlights is indeed legal. 

The Ruling of the Calcutta High Court

Indian laws recognize privacy rights even with the use of adult products. Judges respect privacy in Indian law. The high court of Calcutta has been trying to determine if a sexual product is inherently obscene. The plaintiff in the case was a Calcutta citizen named Kavita Khumbhra. She had tried to import sex toys in India but she had trouble getting them into India. Kavita was arrested on suspicion for the illegal use of her sexual toys.

How do we read the Indian Penal Code?

When it comes to reading any particular law the rule of thumb is, “Do not make space for an interpretation, which is out of context”. 

Then where did this notion of vibrators or fleshlights being illegal in India come from?  

Meaning of “Obscene” 

When you hear the word “obscene”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Are you thinking about exposed ankles? Or distressed jeans that show a little of your kneecap? No, right? That’s because obscenity is a fluid concept and cannot be boiled down to something black and white. Just like morality, it changes with time. There is a reason why neither the Indian, nor the English law explicitly define the word “obscene”. 

What exists though, is how the word has been interpreted by the Indian Courts, over a period of time. The courts follow what is known as the Hicklin Test to interpret what is obscene. According to the said test,

“The test of obscenity is whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall”.

In simple terms, what a person thinks is obscene differs from person to person, but for the masses in order to save “those whose minds are open to such immoral influences” AKA children, a lot of sex toy websites have age restrictions of 21+.

Can you import sex toys? Is it legal?

The main question is: why is there a distinction between the sex toys that can be imported and the ones that cannot have it? The occlusion laws of the nation i.e IPC (Indian Penal Code) 292, 293 and 294 have become a speculation about the sex products in the US. The Calcutta Court has ruled that the use of an admonising product or manual to stimulate sexual activity is unconscionably offensive. So yes, importation of sexual pleasure goods will not be prohibited except where there is obscene language and inappropriate pictures.

Where did this confusion start from?

It's a common practice for people to order vibrators or fleshlights from foreign countries, and sometimes these toys tend to resemble human anatomy (if you know what I mean). These phallic items then are extremely likely to be seized by the Customs Department on account of them being “obscene”. It is then entirely their prerogative to hold these products back, deny clearance, and issue a notice to the party who has ordered the said products. As a consequence, we have most of the general public terrified of ordering the sex toys because they've been made to believe that they are doing something illegal.

How is Sangya dealing with this?

Made in India, for you.

This is one of the reasons why we, at Sangya, are so adamant on manufacturing as many of our products here in India as possible. Not only can we make sure that these look discreet, but by making sure that everything from the circuit board, the motor, to the molding of medical graded silicon, is done right here in India, we have full control over its shape and size and its quality. 

This is what allows us to also provide our customers with a ONE-YEAR WARRANTY on all our products manufactured in India! The Sangya 1, Sangya S6, Strap on, Omega Butt Plug, BDSM Full kit. All of these products are manufactured right here in India!

It is one thing to know that buying and selling of pleasure products is not illegal in India, it is another to do away with the years of shame that is associated with the use of these products.

So congratulations on making your way to our website and reading this article! While you go through our catalogue and try and explore your own pleasure needs, please remember that everything we do here is for your safety; whether it is making sure that you have the literature to understand your own needs, or selecting quality products for you so you don't have to worry about the customs or the legality of it all. 

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