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Can’t see any obscenity: Kerala HC clears Grihalakshmi magazine’s breastfeeding cover

The court, while hearing a petition against the Grihalakshmi magazine’s breastfeeding cover, observed that as beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity and stated that “one man’s vulgarity may be a lyric for another”.

india Updated: Jun 21, 2018 21:46 IST
HT Correspondent 
HT Correspondent 
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Grihalakshmi breastfeeding magazine cover,Grihalakshmi magazine cover,Kerala high court
The Grihalakshmi magazine cover featured a model breast feeding an infant with the caption “Mothers tell Kerala: Don’t stare we want to breastfeed”.(Mathrubhumi website)

In a big relief to Malayalam magazine ‘Grihalakshmi’, the Kerala high court refused to dub its cover showing a model breastfeeding a child as obscene, stating that “one man’s vulgarity may be a lyric for another”.

Rejecting a petition to sue the model, editor and others, the court observed that “shocking one’s moral is an elusive concept” and refused to go with the petitioner’s contention that the cover affected the “society’s moral fabric”.

Though the verdict came two weeks back, its details were released by a legal affairs website Livelaw.in on Wednesday.

The fortnightly had carried a model breastfeeding a baby on its March cover, triggering a heated debate in the state. A section lauded the magazine and the model, but opponents said the innate mother-child bond was used as a marketing tool by the magazine.

The caption beneath the feeding photo angered many: “Mothers tell Kerala: Don’t stare, we want to breastfeed.” Many took to social media saying the caption was more damaging than the photo, giving an impression that “most people in Kerala were voyeurs”. Many international media like BBC covered the issue prominently.

Dismissing the petition of advocates, K Vinod and Felix MA, the division bench of chief justice Antony Dominc and justice D Sheshadri Naidu observed: “Despite our best efforts, we do not see any obscenity in the picture nor do we find anything objectionable in the caption for men. We looked at the picture with the same eyes as we look at the paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Verma. As beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity perhaps.”

Interestingly, a majority of those who detested the cover were men. What really irked them was that model Gilu Joseph, an air hostess and poet, was not a mother, and demanded that if the magazine really wanted to portray a cause, it should have carried a real mother and baby.

But the magazine stood its ground saying it was intended to promote breastfeeding and it was planned as the World Women’s Day special. The model was also unmoved, saying that the cover was intended to send a message across and she never had a second thought before posing for the cover.

Magazine editor Moncy Joseph has lauded the verdict, saying it was a big blow to the so-called moral champions.

“We wanted to give a message on breastfeeding on the eve of the Women’s Day. We succeeded in our endeavour. We hope it will help initiate a healthy discussion on women’s right to breastfeed in public,” he said.

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 21:45 IST