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There was a time when two sunflowers blooming against each other was shown to display intimacy between couples in Hindi films but most of us would regard it as a thing of the past. If you really put some thought into it, one is compelled to ask, have we really progressed? Do we still have the freedom in this country- the world’s largest democracy to express not just through speech but also emotionally and physically?
When we see our mothers or friends (of the same sex) bidding adieu at airports or anywhere, it is termed as ‘pure’ and ‘beautiful’. But if this situation involves a couple, it is deemed to be termed ‘obscene’ in our country.
Before we discuss this topic further, we must be abreast ourselves with what Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code entails. Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), states :
“whoever, to the annoyance of others, a) does any obscene act in any public place, or b) sings, recites or utters any obscene songs, ballad or word, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.”
It’s interesting to see that the most critical element of this provision which is obscenity, is not defined. This means that whether or not a couple kissing in a public place is an “obscene act” is entirely a matter of interpretation giving unabridged power to the self-proclaimed guardians of public morality who are always ready to speak against the influence of the western ideology on indian culture.
“What is absurd is the fact that this extremely conservative society prohibits even married couples from indulging in PDA, let alone unmarried one for that is the biggest sin”
It is but inevitable to link this with religion. They fear that making a movie like Angry Indian Goddesses can put the society in danger. They rage against Valentine’s Day because it is incompatible with the Indian ethos. They tell us how to dress up, what time to return home, what are the defined roles for men and women, altering our lives to suit their superficial interests. It is the cultural insecurity of the “blind as bats minority”, who show utmost reverence to what is written in the scriptures. In fact, their acts and words are more offensive than the perceived vulgarism they are raging against.
When such preposterous practices exist, they are bound to be met with resistance. One such example is the “Kiss of Love”. As the name suggests, the Kiss of Love protest entailed a kind of direct action against moral policing by kissing in a public place. Before the protesters could osculate, however, they were detained and charged with “unlawful assembly” and “disturbing peace” in a public place.
In countries such as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, it is very common to see people holding hands, hugging and sometimes even kissing in public. It is not socially acceptable to be overly explicit, such as engaging in sexual activities. Kissing is more commonly seen in adult night-life, such as nightclubs. When we are increasingly the absorption of western values in our culture, why is it termed as a threat to the Indian society? Let’s not ignore how severe the punishments are in the Middle East who are quite distant to the actual meaning of ‘freedom’.
These values and practices are highly responsible for the India’s backward nature. Merely getting investments worth billions of dollars does not ensure the progress of a nation. Citizens should be allowed to express themselves and even live with as much freedom. In order to overcome this, we need assistance from the society regardless of the limitations.
Until and unless we break these barriers, we cannot hope to be democratic in practice as much as our country is on paper.