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Are sex toys legal in India?

By Anonymous Author

Many of our first time customers ask us if sex toys like dildos and vibrators are legal in India, if there is a ban on sex toys, or whether shopping for them is legal. Unfortunately, this has not been a surprise to us. There is a common misconception that the sale of sex toys is banned in India. This is simply not true. Legal and regulatory restrictions on sex toys apply mainly to the importation and sale of sex toys. Owning them and using them in a private setting is perfectly legal in India.

What this means for you
  • Importing sex toys from abroad may result in confiscation of your purchase along with a fine by Indian customs
  • Owning and using sex toys in private settings is perfectly legal
  • Selling or purchasing sex toys that are packaged discreetly is legal
  • Selling sex toys with explicit packaging may be interpreted as a violation of Indian obscenity laws.

Legal Ambiguity around sex toys in India

There is legal ambiguity around the sale of sex toys. And this ambiguity has led to inconsistency in how government agencies, including the patent office and customs, treat sex toys. Sadly, this far-reaching misconception is held by many Indian customs officers. Ordering sex toys from abroad on your own and having them shipped to India can lead to problems with customs. This guide walks you through Indian rules and laws governing the legal sale of sex toys in India!

 

Are sex toys illegal in India? 

The short answer to this question, unfortunately, is Yes and No. There is no general explicit ban on sex toys in India. But interpretations on the nature of their use introduce ambiguity. Section 11(1) of the Customs Act allows for the prohibition of imported items based on their purpose as outlined in Section 2 of the Act. This includes the maintenance of public order, or standards of decency or morality. So the Customs Act provides Customs officials with wide interpretative latitude in determining what violates standards of decency and morality, and therefore allows Customs to determine what can or cannot be imported into India.

And there are certain Indian laws governing obscenity that restrict India's market for adult toys. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code can be invoked for the sale of any product that violates obscenity laws. This could be a sex toy, a decorative item or even a piece of art, as long as it is found to be lascivious and falls within this grey area of Indian law. If a sex toys are used in the privacy of one's home, they are not to be considered obscene according to a ruling by Calcutta's High Court (see below for more detail). It follows that sex toys that are not displayed or marketed in an obscene manner are, for practical purposes, legal in India. If they have obscene packaging or obscene marketing, they could be found to be in violation of Indian obscenity laws.

But ambiguity comes from the fact that the definition of obscene is subjective and open to interpretation. Specifically, Section 292 states that an item is deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious, appeals to prurient interests, or tends to deprave and corrupt a person who reads, sees, or hears it. But what constitutes lascivious, prurient, or obscene is entirely subjective. Courts try to determine if the product's marketing appeals a depraved mindset based on community standards.

So products with tasteful packaging and restrained marketing messages should be fine from a legal standpoint, but ambiguity leaves interpretation open to government officials such as customs officers. And they have an institutional incentive to err on the side of caution. So importing sex toys abroad does carry the possibility that Customs will confiscate your purchase.  This ambiguity will remain a fact of life until a case on the legality of sex toys is brought to the Supreme Court and it issues a ruling, or if and when legislators introduce more specificity to Section 292. Neither appears to be on the horizon. For example, the patent office rejected a patent application for a sex toy on the basis that it was obscene. This decision was made after Calcutta's High Court (see below) ruled that sex toys were not obscene in and of themselves.

There is no general ban on sex toys in India, however, there are certain Indian laws governing obscenity that restrict the market for adult toys in the country.

Indian law recognizes its citizens' right to privacy, even when it comes to adult products. And courts are mindful of the right to privacy as a core principle in Indian law. From a legal perspective, it is no one's business how you choose to experience sexual pleasure in the privacy of your own home. In 2011, The Calcutta High Court addressed the question whether sex toys sold in India are obscene by nature. The specific case involved a private citizen from Calcutta, Kavita Khumbhra, who had tried to import sex toys from abroad and had run into problems with Indian customs, which led to the case being filed by that citizen against the customs office. The Calcutta High Court eventually ruled that the charges on obscenity were not legally sustainable, and the petitioner of the case was permitted to import the sex toys. The opinion of the court in short: Just because an item brings out sexual desires, it cannot be labeled as 'obscene'. Therefore, sex toys are not illegal in India, as long as they do not violate obscenity laws with their display or packaging. This also means that Customs can issue obscenity decisions on a case by case basis.

The Calcutta High Court eventually ruled that the charges on obscenity were not legally sustainable, and the petitioner of the case was permitted to import the sex toys. The opinion of the court in short: Just because an item brings out sexual desires, it cannot be labeled as 'obscene'.

To give an example: In most Indian pharmacies and drug stores you can find discreetly packaged sex toys such as vibrating cock rings and sexual lubricants. These adult items are not banned by Indian law because they do not violate obscenity laws and can therefore be sold openly in India. The same goes for online sales of adult products in India: As long as they are packaged discreetly and the packaging does not feature obscene images or nude photos, sex toys are perfectly legal to sell and buy.

 

Lovetreats ensures that the sex toys it sells are legal

When you order from us here at Lovetreats, your sex toy is always shipped from our India based warehouse, so that you don't have to worry about customs or legal issues. Our legal team handles the import of the goods which we buy in bulk from Europe and the US and works closely with Indian customs to thoroughly check each item before it is stocked in our warehouse near Bangalore. When you buy a sex toy from our online shop, the customs fees are already paid for by us and the item is shipped to you in 100% discreet packaging from within India. We can therefore put your mind at ease: All the products you can find at Lovetreats are 100% legally imported into India and are in compliance with the local laws and customs procedures. So while sex toys with obscene packaging are not allowed in India, the sex toys sold by Lovetreats are 100% legal.

When you order a sex toy on Lovetreats, your order is always shipped from our India based warehouse, so that you don't have to worry about customs or legal issues.

imported sex toys - Lovetreats sourcing process for sex toys

 

Which sex toys are allowed in India?

For further clarification - there is actually no specific Indian law referring to sexual wellness products. As a retailer, we have to keep India's obscenity laws in mind when selecting sex toys for our online shop and presenting them in a tasteful and legally compliant manner. For example, we ensure that product packaging does not display nude images or obscene designs. The application of Indian law is sometimes arbitrary and inconsistent. For example, a Canadian company had their patent application for a sex toy rejected because the product was deemed obscene. India's obscenity law is also one of the reasons why we refrain from selling certain products, like realistic sex dolls which could be considered as obscene. 

Instead, we have chosen a tasteful, discreet range of sex toys for men and sex toys for women to ensure legality and compliance with Indian laws.

Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room

 

Where to buy sex toys legally in India?

If you are wondering where to buy sex toys in India, you've come to the right place! We at Lovetreats promise 100% legal sex toys, which will be discreetly packaged and shipped to the destination of your choice anywhere in India. All orders are shipped from our India based warehouse so our customers don't need to worry about customs clearance and can rest assured that whatever sex toys they order on Lovetreats are allowed for sale in India! By the way - did you know that we ship every order in 100% discreet packaging with no mention of the product or brand name on the parcel, invoice or credit card bill? Your secret is safe with us! Neither the delivery person nor your nosy neighbours will know what you ordered.

If you prefer offline over online shopping, you can also find a limited range of sex toys in most Indian pharmacies and drug stores, e.g. vibrating penis rings and lubes.

Indian couple with vibrator

 

 

Selection of different sex toys available on Lovetreats

Vice has an excellent video on what it is like for women to buy sex toys in India. The video is age restricted so please sign in to Google or to YouTube to view the vid.