In a progressive order, the Kerala High Court has said that a magazine cover showing breastfeeding a baby, is not ‘obscene’. The magazine in question was Grihalakshmi, a Malayalam fortnightly and made headlines for putting a model breastfeeding a baby with the caption, “Don’t stare, we have to breastfeed”, in its March issue.

Shocking one’s morals is an elusive concept, amorphous and protean. What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric – Court

The judgement quotes William Dalrymple, Abhinav Chandrachud, Steven Pinker and refers to Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra and various court orders on the matter and states, “Shocking one’s morals is an elusive concept, amorphous and protean. What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric, so to say. Therefore, we can only be subjective about the magazine cover depiction.”

Calling this a solid effort by the court to put the perspective in place, Shaili Chopra, Founder of SheThePeople said in a television interview with Mirror Now, “We have to stop sexualising breasts. Breastfeeding is about nourishing.”

The bench recalled many cases that were controversial and the judgements delivered in those cases. For example, that in Bobby Art International v. Om Pal (Bandit Queen movie), the Supreme has observed that nakedness does not always arouse the instinct. “May we observe, Indian psyche has been so mature for ages that it could see the sensuous even in the sacred. The paintings in Ajanta and the temple architecture are cases in point,” the court noted.

The Grihalakshmi magazine, says the editor was meant to spotlight the importance of breastfeeding and remove the many taboos revolving around it.

Gilu Joseph the model on the cover has since been criticised and has become the mascot of really strong opinions on the matter. The Kerala High Court ruled dismissing a petition that wanted action against the magazine, bringing it global accolades for doing so.

Court says nothing obscene in magazine cover showing breastfeeding

The purpose of the cover was to normalize women breastfeeding. The image, along with the headline,“Mothers tell Kerala,‘please don’t stare, we need to breastfeed’”, appeared on the cover of the magazine’s March issue and within a week of its release, raised a cry on social media.

The Kerela the HC dismissed the petitions, saying “one man’s vulgarity could be another man’s lyric”.

Advocate Vinod Mathew Wilson moved the court against the image, stating it was obscene and derogatory. Others also filed petitions including Felix MA, who alleged that the image amounted to a sexual offence against the infant pictured in Joseph’s arms on the contentious cover. And thus criminal cases were filed against both the magazine and the model under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act and sections under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, and Article 39(e) and (f) of the Constitution of India.

The Kerela the HC dismissed the petitions, saying “one man’s vulgarity could be another man’s lyric”.

The bench was headed by Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu. On March 8 they observed that Indian art had always celebrated the human body. And concluded that the Indian psyche was more mature than this and that obscenity, like beauty, was perhaps in the eyes of the beholder. It added that it saw nothing on the cover that was offensive to women or men.

The judgment is relieving for the Grihalakshmi magazine, as it had been at the receiving end of backlash for the cover. Gilu Joseph, the model, was also trolled on social media for the cover. In an interview she told The Indian Express that she was attacked by people who did not even understand the message of the cover, which was to encourage women to breastfeed freely. However, the model said that she had no regrets.

This progressive judgement by Kerela HC comes as a breath of fresh air.

Read Also: In a First, Bandra Station gets a Breastfeeding Room

Apoorva Lamba is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv     

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv