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Is online selling of sex toys illegal?

IMbesharam, a company operating imbesharam.com, that sells adult lifestyle or sexual wellness products, such as sex toys, kits, edible lingerie, lubricants, condoms, etc, online, claims it complies with all existing regulations.

“We’re ready to tweak operations if the laws of the land demand so,” Raj Armani, co-founder and chief of operations, told Business Standard.

This was after a report by this newspaper that four websites – of Flipkart, imbesharam.com, thatspersonal.com and ohmysecrets.com, are under the government scanner. Recently, the crime branch of Delhi Police had asked the information & broadcasting ministry to look at the four after an e-mail complaint from one Harit Kumar about these “openly promoting and selling objectionable products illegally and showing objectionable content on their websites”.

“We haven’t yet been approached,” said Armani. “Our doors are open for any government agency to contact us and to fix any concerns if these exist. Our team of attorneys have been already active and ready to assist where needed, to ensure we’re in full compliance of the law and its application to us, as being a US entity with US persons operating the business.”

The interesting point is IMbesharam, which aims to be known as the ‘Merchants of Kama Sutra’, is a US company which sells adult toys in India through its e-commerce portal and its multi-brand. It also sells through other e-commerce portals.

The business of adult lifestyle products was till recently restricted to seedy lanes in metros. It has grown to become a thriving business worth Rs 1,500 crore.

Laws in India are unclear about the sale of sex toys. In most cases, the concern is related to the ways these products are sold, showing suggestive pictures and graphic descriptions. According to Indian laws, whoever sells, allows to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits, makes, or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or advertises, or makes known by any means whatsoever that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person, is punishable with imprisonment and fine.

“So far, we have already invested over $ 1.5 million. We have been profitable from the second month itself and are now in the works of launching our US store,” said Armani.

The parent company, Besharam, was founded in January 2011 in California. “After getting a proper understanding, having met a series of entrepreneurs to share our vision, customs and law experts, who have refined the products that we can import, and establishing proper offices, warehouses and logistics and marketing partners to ensure a well organised, well implemented and successful business venture,” said Armani.

IMbesharam essentially caters to the needs of adults in a relationship or wish to get in one, as well as adults who like to experience certain pleasures outside of their comfort zone. Adult stores have been around in the international markets for several decades. In the past decade or so, the range of products have undergone sophistication and improvement, while maintaining higher standards of quality of material and safety in application, said Armani.

“Many products are now sold in mainstream and in departmental stores like Walmart, Brookstone, RadioShack, etc. This showcases the shift in the mindset of the audience, where certain pleasure products are considered part of the fast-moving consumer products domain. While the stores have been selling products to enhance or compensate for any sexual experiences, variations in sexual lifestyle has been in our culture since the early BC, as evident in the temples of Khajurao,” said Armani.

He added they’d created an avenue for Indians, primarily youths, to explore the western lifestyle they have been craving for.

With successful operation in India, IMbesharam says it is is eyeing the US, Canada, Dubai, Australia and UK markets in the coming years.

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