When I see couples give each other a quick kiss in public, I really don’t think twice about it. After all, growing up in American means movies, television shows and even cartoons which have characters show their love for one another with a quick peck. This act is not only normalized in our society, it’s actually seen as endearing and sweet.
This is certainly not the case in India. In fact, a public kiss is viewed as so disgraceful, you can receive jail time for that small, quick act of affection. The Indian Penal Code states that anyone who “does any obscene act in any public place” may be subject to arrest. And yes, public kissing falls into that list of obscene acts.
Although Westerners may be baffled by the conservative view, right-wing Hindu fundamentalists certainly take it very seriously. On October 23rd, a local news channel showed footage of a couple kissing inside of a cafe in Calicut. The reaction to this was swift and overwhelming. Within an hour of the broadcast, people smashed the windows of the cafe and caused chaos inside. They claimed it was punishment for endorsing “un-Indian” behavior. According to one Facebook commenter, public kissing is only for “filthy western people, where shame exists only in the dictionary.”
From Cartoonist Unnikrishnan Mathrubhumi. Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/kissoflovekochi
But while there are those bent on aggressively enforcing this conservative view, there are also many, especially the youth, who seek to oppose this perception on kissing. Less than a day after the violent acts against the cafe, a nation-wide movement called the “Kiss of Love” campaign was created and sparked protests throughout India.
“We wanted to show how humans express their love. A kiss is a short and sweet expression,” explained Rahul Pasupalar, co-creator of the movement’s Facebook page which now has over 140,000 likes.
A number of these protestors are receiving daily death and rape threats, but the movement continues strong. In fact, many claim that this is about much more than just kissing. Because arranged marriages are still a common practice in India, the act of public kissing is seen as women making decisions on their own terms. The rise of kissing reflects the growing power of young women in deciding who to marry.
“The terms and timing of intimacy used to be initiated and decided entirely by the man,” said Dr. Avdesh Sharma, a psychiatrist practicing in New Delhi. “That is no longer true.”
Feature image courtesy of http://www.bbc.com/