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Kerala High Court on breastfeeding woman on magazine cover: As the beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity

The court iterated that the sections referred to in the petition failed to convince that the publishers had committed any offence, much less a cardinal one, affecting the society's moral fabric, and offending its sensibilities.

Written by Vishnu Varma | New Delhi |
Updated: June 22, 2018 7:00:45 am
Kerala High Court on plea against breastfeeding woman on magazine cover: "As the beauty lies in the beholder's eye, so does obscenity" Actress and writer Gilu Joseph on the cover of Grihalxmi’ Malayalam edition.

The Kerala High Court refused to identify a Malayalam magazine cover of a woman breastfeeding a child as ‘obscene’, stating sternly that ‘what may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.’

Dismissing a writ petition filed by Felix MA, the bench of former chief justice Antony Dominic and Dama Seshadri Naidu, said in its order that the court does not see obscenity in the picture or find anything objectionable in the caption for men.

ReadMalayalam model breastfeeds in an iconic, bold Grihalakshmi cover photo; garners mixed reactions on social media

“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 bench observed.

“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,” it said.

Read this story in Malayalam

The ruling goes on to quote several judgments and literary works to make its point and concludes, “Going by the contemporary community standards- and without troubling ourselves with patent offensiveness – we may observe that given the picture’s particular posture and its background setting (mother feeding the baby), as depicted in the magazine, it is not prurient or obscene; nor even suggestive of it.”

The photograph of model-actor Gilu Joseph breastfeeding a child on the cover of ‘Grihalakshmi’ magazine in February this year had created a flutter in the state earning the support of a large section of society but also stoking ire from many others. While the magazine intended to normalise breastfeeding in public, there were many on social media who asked why it hired a model to do the photoshoot with a child who was not even hers.

Joseph, speaking to, had said then, “I have only done things that I have believed is right for me. I must have failed, but I have no regrets. Women should breastfeed freely, without any sense of fear or inhibition and that is my message in the article too, but people began criticising even without reading what I had to say.”

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