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Will regulations and myths cripple an entire industry in a market with 1.3bn people?

Teledildonics, VR, safer sex; there’s a world of pleasure in our technological future, but with some experts predicting sex robots within a decade, can regulations keep up with our ability to imagine new products?

It’s a problem facing any company that wants to make or sell adult products in India, and as such, it’s a stumbling block for an entire industry in a country of 1.32 billion people.

As things stand right now, there are also a whole lot of misunderstandings about what’s allowed, and what’s not. Search online and you’ll find the commonly held misconception that the sale of sex toys is illegal in India.

That’s not right, but the laws are so vaguely defined that it’s easy to see why the misconception continues.

Why is it even complicated? Legal or not, right?

Selling sex toys isn’t illegal in India, nor is importing them, but selling or importing anything deemed ‘obscene’ would be against the rules. And what’s the official definition of ‘obscene’? Wide-ranging and variable.

Generally, to keep out of trouble, companies need to make sure there’s no nude or semi-nude images on packaging, marketing material or pamphlets, guides or anything else.

It also can’t be a skin-colored item, or be designed to look exactly like genitalia. At a broad sweep, adhering to these helps keep LoveTreats.in, an intimate lifestyle store that sells sex toys and other sexual wellness products, out of trouble.

The company also says it runs all the items its considering selling past its legal team and a customs liaison to make sure they all meet the required standards.

LoveTreats says the perpetuation of myths and “moral policing” combined with lack of awareness and clumsy media reports have caused the confusion.

“Many customs officials themselves think that all sex toys are illegal to import and are not aware of the [legal] rulings against customs,” the company added.

With such imprecision in the law, it’s easy to see why there’s confusion and a general indifference around selling sex toys (and sextech) in India.

A change ahead?

That could change, however, if a slow and gradual shift in the obscenity laws continue, LoveTreats says:

“Some of the progressive rulings with regards to obscenity are encouraging and indicative towards the direction that if the law will be changed then it would be more progressive.”

Most pertinent to this change in attitudes, and providing legal precedent, is the 2011 ruling by the Calcutta High Court that held that obscenity charges against adult games or sex toys are not legally sustainable.

Particularly interesting was the courts rejection on the grounds that arousing sexual desire doesn’t equal obscenity by default. The court also said the definition of obscenity “is so sweeping in its scope and involves such questions of psychology and ethics that it is not right or feasible for judges to implement a ‘legal formula’ in practice,” LoveTreats said.

The future of sextech in India?

While some areas of tech are booming in India (check out the Google Play Store download growth, for one simple example), sextech (and more broadly, sex toys) are getting a standing start.

LoveTreats says 90 percent of its customers are first-time users of sex toys, so demands for more futuristic options are few and far between. That said, the company did say customers are most excited about the opportunities of VR and teledildonic devices that let couples have fun over long distances.

If the slowly progressive changes continue, it’s a market that could prove lucrative, but regulations aren’t the only challenge.

Attitudes towards sex toys will also be tough to change, and navigating advertising rules could prove even trickier.

Nonetheless, it’s a challenge that LoveTreats.in is happy to tackle face-on, and carefully, for now.

Read next: Return of Orange is the New Black to Netflix changed one Pornhub search by 475%

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