Kerala's Kiss Day campaign against moral policing: Is it just lip service?

  • Viju Cherian, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 29, 2014 22:37 IST

Protesting against an attack on a café in Kozhikode (in north Kerala), a group of youngsters has pledged to assemble at the Marine Drive in Kochi on Sunday (November 2) to celebrate ‘Kiss Day’. The Facebook page of the group, Kiss of Love, has got more than 20,000 likes but that’s about it. It would be tricky to read too much into this. Social media responses are seldom a barometer for change. A one-line description on the page reads: Moral Policing is a criminal activity. Most of political parties and religious organizations tries [sic] to do that.

So come Sunday evening, will Kochi witness a desi version of a kiss-a-thon of sorts? Probably not. The group has its heart at the right place but not its head (or in this case its lips). And that’s because Kerala is not ready for such a change. For all its high rates of literacy and health indices, the social Kerala is still conservative, highly patriarchal and stuck in an era where women are not considered equals and are not respected. Religious institutions will not be comfortable with such a move and are likely to oppose such a public display of affection.

Irrespective of whether Kerala will muah-muah on November 2 or not, one thing is certain — this is not going to change the social and cultural fabric of God’s Own Country. For so deep are the roots of patriarchy in Kerala. A good reflection of this is Kerala’s attitude towards women, especially the way it treats its women celebrities. As long a woman celebrity works within the defined boundaries of ‘culture’ she is seen as an embodiment of virtue. The moment she breaks from that norm, she is ridiculed and her fall from grace is accompanied by aspersions on her moral character. The average Malayalees change in attitude towards Ranjini Haridas, a famous stage-show host, is a case in point.

However, the protest will have political repercussions. The ‘Kiss Day’ gives political parties with a religious leaning an opportunity to further their role as protectors of ‘Indian culture’.

Generally women who speak their mind in Kerala are seen as outspoken — and that’s no pat on the shoulder. The Malayalam term used to describe ‘such’ women is 'ahangaari' — when translated it means arrogant and carries a lot of spite and venom.

Kerala, just like many other states in India, needs to fight against the growing menace of moral policing, but this Sunday is unlikely to start that much-needed revolution. Kerala will not kiss and tell — at least not this Sunday.

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