Social Issues

‘Nothing Obscene About It’: Kerala HC About The Breastfeeding Cover

“One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.”

In March this year, a controversy broke out when Mathrubhumi Grihalakshmi, a Kerala-based Malayalam magazine, featured a woman breastfeeding a child on its cover. The idea was to campaign for open breastfeeding, a move that aims to remove the stigma about mothers breastfeeding their child in public, something that often leads to them being shamed or is considered vulgar.

But the Kerala High Court’s take on this issue has led to many lauding the move. After the cover was published, petitioner Felix filed a complaint stating that the cover was “obscene” and was destroying “society’s moral fabric”.

According to Livelaw.in, the first bench that has Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu stated that the cover does not feature anything objectionable, and even brought in the works of renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma who painted topless women which were not considered obscene per se.

“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,” they said.

Felix had written that the magazine cover violated provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, as well as Section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act. He had also alleged violation of provisions of the Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition) Act, 1986 and Article 39(e) and (f) of the constitution of India.

Open breastfeeding has long been frowned upon by a significant number of people. The World Health Organisation has also recommended that breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their life but many mothers aren’t able to do so fearing backlash in public. In fact, there have been cases when a woman was shamed and cyberbullied when her husband had put out a picture of her breastfeeding their child in public in a bid to bust all those misconceptions about doing so in public.

Larissa Waters
Pic credits: The Guardian

Let’s not forget that a while ago, Australian senator Larissa Waters was all things empowering when she proudly feed her 11-week-old daughter while moving a motion in Parliament. It created history with her even proclaiming this:

“Women are going to continue to have babies and if they want to do their job and be at work and look after their baby … the reality is we are going to have to accommodate that.”

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