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Sex surveys: India Today, Outlook in court


28th September 2005: Premier Indian news magazines India Today and Outlook are facing flak, after publishing sex surveys in their recent editions.

The Delhi High Court issued notices to India Today and Outlook on Wednesday on a public interest litigation (PIL) which calls for directions to prosecute the journalists and management of the two leading magazines for conducting and publishing the surveys.

The division bench which includes Vijender Jain and Rekha Sharma asked the two magazines, the Union information and broadcasting ministry and the Press Council to reply to the charges by December 7.

Both the surveys were published in the issues dated September 26. The petitioner has also asked the court to impose a token fine on both India Today and Outlook for publishing the survey.

The PIL also asks the court to direct the two magazines to part with the advertising revenues and sales figures for the issues in question.

The India Today sex survey had an unintended victim: southern actress Khushboo. The actress was quoted in the survey as condoning premarital sex among women, provided adequate precautions were taken regarding contraception and safe sex. Khushboo even said that no educated gentleman these days could expect his bride to be a virgin. The Tamil culture police took to arms and took out a morcha to Khshuboo's house, ready with garlands of slippers. Khushboo and her husband were outside the country at the time, but as soon she landed back, she apologized for the hurt caused, and claimed she had been misquoted.

Recently, another sex survey had rankled the parents of many college girls in Chandigarh. The survey, which claimed that 33% of college girls (which is one in three) in Chandigarh are sexually active raised the hackles of many students and parents, who felt that the survey cast them in a poor light. "From now, the boys will start thinking that many of the girls are available for sex. If not one, then another," said a furious college student.

The survey has got the parents upset too. Blasting the Urban Health Centre for conducting the survey is one thing - the risk of wayward ways highlighted by the survey on their children is another.

According to the Chandigarh sex survey, 33% of the girl students admitted to having sex, while 28% refused to comment. The implication is that the figure could be higher than 33%.

The surveyors drew criticism for publishing the survey results. The Health Centre later said that the idea was not to highlight licentious behaviour in campuses, but to find out the awareness levels on contraception and safe sex among adolescents. Many college principals too trashed the results of the survey.

However, this is not the first time that sex surveys have pushed up eyebrows. In one of its earliest editions (in 1995) Outlook published a sex survey which clearly attracted new readers. As recently as 2003, both news magazines again came up with sex surveys. And now, just two years after that, the surveyors are out in the street again. Not just India Today and Outlook, many others too have tried to board the sex survey caravan before. The way the latest case proceeds may be an eye-opener for all.


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