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One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric, Kerala HC on Grihalaksmi breastfeeding campaign

27-June-2018
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One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric, Kerala HC on Grihalaksmi breastfeeding campaign

It was in the month of March that Grihalaksmi, a monthly magazine from the Mathrubhumi Group, came up with a campaign on breast feeding. The front cover of Grihalaksmi had an image of woman who was breast feeding an infant, from then on a wave of controversy followed.

The campaign which was aimed at creating an awareness on free and open breast feeding had the caption saying. 'Mothers tell Kerala, please do not stare, we need to breastfeed". As part of the breast feed freely campaign the magazine also launched a 'challenge' encouraging women to send pictures of them breastfeeding children.

While some supported the magazine for coming up with a bold and progressive campaign, another set of people lashed out saying that the image was obscene. Social media platforms were flooded with posts and movements which either fully supported or vehemently opposed the campaign by the Mathrubhumi Group. Following all the controversy, complaints were filed before the court and the Kerala State Child Rights Commission against the magazine for featuring a model breastfeeding a baby on its cover page. In a landmark move, the Kerala High Court has refused to categorise the campaign as obscene. The court observed that shocking one’s morals” is an “elusive concept”, and that “one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric”.

The Bench comprising then of Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu observed, “We do not see, despite our best efforts, obscenity in the picture, nor do we find anything objectionable in the caption, for men. 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," reports legal affairs site Livelaw.

The court also emphasized on the point that Indian art has long appreciated and celebrated the beauty of the human body. It in fact took note of the paintings in Ajanta, and the Kamasutra to highlight the maturity of the Indian psyche. Talking to exchange4media on the High Court ruling out the case of the Grihalakshmi breast cover issue, MV Shreyams Kumar, Joint Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Group, said, "Mathrubhumi, as a responsible corporate citizen, wedded to the principles of righteousness and justice, welcomes the sagacious judgment pronounced by the Honourable Justices of the Kerala High Court dismissing the charges of violation of sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, the Juvenile Justice Act and Indecent Representation of Women Act, in the matter of depicting the maternal act of breastfeeding as a cover photograph in an issue of our women’s fortnightly, Grihalakshmi."

"It is a poetic and strident validation of our bold caption: 'Don’t stare, we have to breastfeed', championing the biological right of both the mother and the infant. We sincerely hope this verdict will lead to a greater embrace of maternal rights and gender justice, by making our society realise that the act of breast-feeding is representative of general mammalian behaviour and doing so in public is as life-nourishing and sacrosanct as when done in private," added Shreyams Kumar.

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