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Court throws out obscenity charge against magazine's 'morally degrading' cover starring breastfeeding model

A women’s magazine caused an uproar in India earlier this year for featuring a model breastfeeding a baby on its cover. Despite complaints that the image was too sexual in nature — with critics citing the fact that model Gilu Joseph is not the infant’s mother — a court has ruled that it’s not obscene.

As NDTV reports, the Kerala High Court has thrown out a petition accusing Grihalakshmi of violating the Indecent Representation of Women Act with its pro-breastfeeding shoot.

“We look at the picture, like we look at paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Varma,” the court’s judgment said of its ruling in favor of the magazine. “As beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity, perhaps.

“What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric, so to say. … May we observe, Indian psyche has been so mature for ages that it could see the sensuous even in the sacred. The paintings in Ajanta and the temple architecture are cases in point,” the judges added.

Joseph, who was partially exposed on the controversial cover, told the media that she was slut-shamed after the issue’s publication. Much was made of her appearing to nurse the infant on her lap, even though she is not a mother herself.

“I was slut-shamed, was termed a blue-film actor,” Joseph told NDTV. “My mother was called names. But I knew I would have to hear all this. I took it in my stride. This issue is about breastfeeding, and it’s an important cause. There is no question of regretting anything. This is my work. I have cared in films as a mother, what’s so different about this?”

Indeed, many mothers and breastfeeding advocates have praised the cover for helping to destigmatize nursing in public.



But others claimed that public breastfeeding is “wrong,” with one critic insisting it was “morally degrading,” despite the court ruling.

“I have lost my 5-month-old daughter,” the man identified as Felix MA told NDTV. “I know the pain of breastfeeding. All the months that she was in the intensive care unit, my wife could not visit her due to her own infection. I used to carry pumped milk for my daughter. And now, in this picture, an unmarried model is seen holding an infant and posing as if she is breastfeeding. Is this acceptable?” 

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