'Beauty and obscenity in eye of beholder': Kerala HC junks plea against magazine featuring breastfeeding model

The Kerala High Court refused to label a magazine cover featuring a breastfeeding woman as obscene, according to several media reports.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The court, noting that the notion of obscenity was more a matter of perception than fact observed that "shocking one's morals" is an "elusive concept", and "one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric".

"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 lie in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity perhaps," Live Law quoted the bench as saying.

Reacting to another petitioner's claim that the cover photo was a crime against the child and in violation of the Section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act, a bench comprising then chief justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu observed that the magazine did not damage the sensibilities of the society in any way.

"The petition failed to convince us that the respondent publishers have committed any offence, much less a cardinal one, affecting society’s moral fabric, and offending its sensibilities," the court said.

The court also made some observations regarding the practice of maligning depiction of human body in form of art as it said that "sensuous is seen as an integral part of the sacred."

"The body, in other words, is not some tainted appendage to be whipped into submission, but potentially the vehicle of divinity. In this tradition, the sensuous and the sacred are not opposed. They are one, and the sensuous is seen as an integral part of the sacred," the Live Law report quoted the judgment. The court further observed that it did not see how the image could be offensive to women or men.

A controversy erupted after a popular women's magazine Grihalakshmi featured model Gilu Joseph breastfeeding a child on the cover of its March edition. The backlash, mostly directed at Joseph, was swift and severe, and the publication was taken to court.

Advocate Vinod Mathew Wilson moved court, and claimed the picture was 'lascivious' in nature, and that it appealed "to prurient interests and tends to degrade the dignity of womanhood." Petitions were also filed by others, including Felix MA, who alleged that the image amounted to a sexual offence against the baby pictured with Joseph on the contentious cover.

The magazine stated that the purpose of the cover was to normalise breastfeeding in public and deliver a message. The caption alongside the image read: "Moms tell Kerala - don't stare, we want to breastfeed."

Women breastfeeding their children have been the subject of many magazine covers in the past, such as TIME and Babytalk. Readers called Babytalk's cover "gross" because it featured an exposed breast, even though the focus was on the infant's face and expression.

TIME, on the other hand, drew flak because the child in question was significantly old: Four years old, to be exact. It led to a larger discussion on Jamie Lynne Grumet, the woman who was featured, attachment parenting, and a parent's decision to raise their child in the way they see fit.

In the past, brands such Gap have also featured models breastfeeding children in their ads.

 

 


Updated Date: Jun 21, 2018 15:37 PM

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