Breastfeeding woman on mag cover not obscene: HC

Breastfeeding woman on mag cover not obscene: HC

The Kerala High Court has dismissed a writ petition which stated that a cover of Malayalam fortnightly Grihalakshmi – featuring a model breastfeeding a baby – was “obscene” and pointed to the society’s “moral decadence”.

In its recent verdict on the petition, a bench comprising then Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu said it could not see obscenity in the picture or its caption - ‘Mothers tell Kerala – Don’t stare, we need to breastfeed’.

“What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric, so to say,” the bench said.

The controversial cover was widely debated on, both for its bold theme and since it featured an actor-model – 28-year-old Gilu Joseph – and not a “real, lactating mother” as some of the critics pointed out.

“We looked at the picture with the same eyes we look at the paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Varma. As the beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity, perhaps,” the order said.

The petitioner, M A Felix, contended that the cover image was offensive under sections 3(c) and 5(j), III of the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, Section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act and sections 3 and 4 of Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act. The court said the petitioner’s contention was not convincing. It observed that the Indian psyche had been so mature to “see the sensuous even in the sacred” and cited temple architecture and the paintings in Ajanta as cases in point.

“We cannot, as a nation – people of all shades of faith and belief – afford to chain ourselves to the past, glorious it may have been. That glory, in fact, was a change and almost an abomination for those living then. Only from the prism of the present, that past appears to be glorious,” the court said.

The bench dismissed the petition based on “contemporary community standards” and observed that considering the posture and the mother-child theme, the cover was not obscene or “even suggestive of it”.

Gilu is unmarried and doesn’t have a child but had said she had “no doubt or hesitation” to appear on the cover. Since the cover on March, she has been celebrated and shamed in extremely polarised social media discussions.