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Are sex toys legal in India?

By Anonymous Author

Many customers ask us if sex toys like dildos and vibrators are legal in India or if even shopping for them is legal. Unfortunately, these questions have not been a surprise to us. There is a common misconception that Indian law bans the sale of sex toys in India. Thankfully, this misconception is not true.


Legal and regulatory restrictions on sex toys apply mainly to the importation and public display of sex toys by merchants. Owning and using sex toys in a private setting is perfectly lawful in India, as is their purchase from domestic retailers. Importing sex toys from abroad can lead to issues with Customs. Indian retailers have to make sure that their products come with discreet packaging.


What Indian Laws and Regulations on Sex Toys Mean 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 lawful

Selling sex toys with discreet packaging is legal

Selling sex toys with explicit packaging may violate Indian obscenity laws.


Legal Ambiguity

There is legal ambiguity around the sale of sex toys in India. And this ambiguity has led to inconsistency in how government agencies, including the Patent Office and Indian Customs, treat sex toys. Sadly, many Indian customs officers hold the far-reaching misconception that Indian law prohibits sex toys. India's Customs Act contributes to this confusion by obligating officers to ensure that imports align with community standards of morality and decency. Ordering sex toys from abroad on your own and having them shipped to India can lead to problems with customs

However, buying from domestic retailers is lawful. Indian retailers must comply with obscenity laws, so the packaging of said sex toys must be discreet. Otherwise, other legal issues shouldn't impact you as a retail consumer. This guide walks you through Indian rules and laws governing the lawful sale of sex toys in India!


Are Sex Toys Lawful in India? 

The short answer to this question, unfortunately, is Yes and No. There is no explicit general ban on sex toys in India. But interpretations of the nature of their use do introduce ambiguity.

ImportationSection 11(1) of the Customs Act prohibits 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 India's Customs Act provides customs officers with wide interpretative latitude in deciding what violates community standards of decency and morality. Sadly, the Act empowers the Customs Agency to unilaterally determine what can or cannot be imported into India.

imported sex toys - Lovetreats sourcing process for sex toys


Selling Sex Toys. Specific Indian laws governing obscenity restrict India's market for adult toys. Officials can invoke Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code 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 officials find it lascivious. But using sex toys in the privacy of one's home is not obscene, according to a ruling by Calcutta's High Court (see below for more detail). Sex toys that are not displayed or marketed indecently are, for practical purposes, legal in India. If they have obscene packaging or obscene marketing, they could violate 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 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 primarily subjective. Courts try to determine if the product's marketing appeals to a depraved mindset based on community standards. Extreme cases that violate community standards are not ambiguous, but community standards or values are hard to pin down for cases that fall in the middle range. 

Indian couple with vibrator

So adult products with tasteful packaging and restrained marketing messages should be fine from a legal standpoint, but ambiguity leaves interpretation open to government officials. And they have an institutional incentive to err on the side of caution.

This ambiguity will remain a fact of life until someone brings a case on the legality of sex toys to the Supreme Court and it issues a ruling. Or even better, if and when legislators introduce more specificity to Section 292 so that there are clear guidelines on what constitutes obscenity and how manufacturers should package adult products. But sadly, 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. Officials made this decision after Calcutta's High Court (see below) ruled that sex toys were not obscene in and of themselves.


The Ruling of the Calcutta High Court

From a legal perspective, it is no one's business how you choose to experience sexual pleasure in the privacy of your home. Indian law recognizes its citizens' right to privacy, even regarding adult products. And courts are mindful of the right to privacy as a core principle in Indian law. 

In 2011, the Calcutta High Court addressed whether sex toys sold in India are inherently obscene. This case involved a citizen from Calcutta, Kavita Khumbhra, who had tried to import sex toys from abroad and had problems with Indian customs. The confiscation of his sex toys led Kavita to file a case against the customs office.

The Calcutta High Court eventually ruled that the charges of obscenity were not legally sustainable, and the case petitioner was permitted to import the sex toys. The court's opinion was, in short, that just because an item brings out sexual desires does not necessarily mean that it can be labelled as 'obscene'. Therefore, legal precedent has ruled that sex toys are not illegal in India as long as they do not violate obscenity laws with their display or packaging. The ruling also upheld Custom's freedom to issue obscenity decisions on a case-by-case basis.

To give an example: you can find discreetly packaged sex toys such as vibrating cock rings and sexual lubricants in most Indian pharmacies and drug stores. Indian law does not ban these items. After all, they do not violate obscenity laws because their packaging is not lewd or overtly sexual. They, therefore, can be sold openly in India. The same goes for online sales of adult products in India: As long as they have discreet packaging and the online shop is not lascivious in its marketing, sex toys are perfectly legal to sell and buy.


Lovetreats ensures that its sex toys are legal

Sex toys with improper packaging are prohibited in India, and the sex toys sold by Lovetreats are 100% legal. When you order from 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. We buy from Europe and the US and work closely with Indian Customs to thoroughly check each item before we stock it in our warehouse near Bangalore. We already pay the customs fees, 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% lawfully imported into India and are in compliance with local laws and customs procedures.


Which sex toys are allowed in India?

As a retailer, we keep India's obscenity laws in mind when selecting sex toys for our online shop. For example, we ensure that product packaging does not display nude images or lewd designs. We are extra careful because 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 why we refrain from selling certain products, like realistic sex dolls. Besides, they are tacky, anyhow. And we display our products in a tasteful and legally compliant manner.

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.

Selection of different sex toys available on Lovetreats