'Obscene To Some, Artistic To Another': Kerala HC On Grihalakshmi's Breastfeeding Cover Photo

There's nothing shameful about a mother feeding her child. Where is this breastfeeding 'debate' even coming from?

Kerala High Court has ruled that Grihalakshmi magazine’s breastfeeding cover photo, which sent a lot of people into a meltdown, is not obscene. The Malayalam magazine’s February cover this year had actor Gilu Joseph breastfeeding a baby, with a caption asking people to not stare at feeding mothers.

Its publication had provoked instant reaction and while some lauded the magazine for saying what had to be said, there where many who took umbrage at it. The sight of a child feeding from the mother was apparently suited for closed doors only. MV Shreyams Kumar, the publisher of the magazine maintained that the idea behind the cover was to talk about the unfairness of the ‘social stigma around breastfeeding.’

Talking about why it was important to talk about breastfeeding, Kumar said, “So many women have told us that they can’t breastfeed their children without inviting stares. It is a natural beautiful thing that a mother does with her child. If some people see something objectionable, in this, they are the ones with the problem.”

Actor Gilu Joseph, who was trolled on social media for posing for the cover despite ‘not being pregnant’, thinks that the real problem is to interpret breastfeeding as sexual. “Isn’t it a beautiful thing? Why would you think it’s wrong? Which god will you offend by feeding your child,” she said to The Indian Express earlier this year.

But the cover invited such furore that a case was registered against Grihalakshmi and actor Gilu Joseph by advocate Vinod Mathew. His case was filed under Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986.

The two judge bench of Dama Sheshadri Naidu and Antony Dominic said,”we looked at the picture with the same eyes we look at the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. As beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity perhaps. May we observe (that) Indian psyche has been so mature for ages that it could see the sensuous even in yen sacred. The paintings in Ajanta, and the temple architecture, are cases in point.”

In what may be the most succinct summarisation of differences of opinion and the need to be more accepting, the court’s statement further said, “What may be obscene to some, may be artistic to other, one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.”

Twitter’s swiped right on this ruling:

Judiciary prevails where sense doesn’t