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Indian women's magazine sparks controversy by featuring a breastfeeding model — who isn't a mother

A magazine cover featuring a woman breastfeeding has sparked a debate. (Photo: Twitter/@Grihalakshmi_)

A groundbreaking magazine cover of a woman breastfeeding her baby has divided opinion in India.

Grihalakshmi, a women’s magazine published in Kerala state, chose to feature model Gilu Joseph, 27, breastfeeding an infant.

Underneath, the headline reads: “Mothers tell Kerala — don’t stare! We want to breastfeed.”

It is believed that this is the first time an Indian magazine has published a cover image of a woman breastfeeding.

Speaking of the cover shot, Grihalakshmi’s editor said the magazine wanted to raise awareness about the need for mothers to be able to breastfeed in public.

Interestingly, the social media response to the cover has been largely positive, with many praising the magazine for its attempt to break down the breastfeeding taboo.

But the fact that the model is not herself a mother has caused some unease, with some believing that the message the magazine was trying to send is therefore somewhat lost in sensationalism.

Gilu Joseph told The Indian Express that she did not think twice before agreeing to be a part of the project.

“It is a problem to interpret this sexually,” she said. “Isn’t it a beautiful thing, friends? Which god will be angry if you feed your child?”

She went on to say that she thought of breastfeeding as a privilege for a mother and wanted to support a campaign that showed there was no shame in the act.

“Nothing can deter me from doing what I feel is right,” she said.

However, opinion has become sharply divided between those who think it has sparked debate and some who believe that, by using a traditionally glamorous model, and a child that is not hers, the photo shoot is nothing more than “cheap sensationalism.”


It’s not the first time a magazine depicting a breastfeeding mother has caused controversy.

Last April, parenting blogger Sophie Cachia caused a stir after appearing on the cover of Mother & Baby Magazine proudly breastfeeding her youngest baby. 

And two years ago Elle Australia released a cover starring model Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son Zion to its subscription readers, but was criticised for never sending that particular cover to newsstands.

In the U.K., Tamara Ecclestone appeared on the cover of Fabulous while breastfeeding her then 17-month old daughter, Sophia. The 31-year-old socialite discussed the backlash she’s received over sharing images of herself breastfeeding her little one.

“It’s something that is so natural,” she told Fabulous of the criticism.

“When there are people walking around the streets these days in thongs and bras, I’m like: ‘Really? Can anyone say anything?’ I find it bizarre what people’s priorities are.”

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