Moral Policing

PDA and Privacy

On 16th October, an intimate video shot in Delhi Metro was made viral on social media. Immediately, the comments’ sections were polarized in two groups. While many slammed and shamed the couple for openly indulging in PDA and violating “Indian Values”, many criticized the person who posted it online and urged others to report the video so that it can be taken down by Facebook. The original post was taken down, though video can still be found online.

This incident has stirred a debate around the issues of PDA a.k.a public display of affection, moral policing, legality and Privacy Rights, and also raised the questions of what is acceptable and what isn’t. Here is an attempt to deconstruct the various diktats that have risen around this episode.

PDA is illegal – Yes, under section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, causing annoyance to others through “obscene acts” is a criminal offence with a punishment of imprisonment up to 3 months or a fine, or both, but because this law does not give explicit definitions of “obscene acts”, it is blatantly misused by police and vigilante to harass couples. Besides, the law gives freedom of subjective interpretation and hence, the cases involved depend on the disposition of police or the judge involved. For example, in 2008 Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere were booked in Obscenity Charge for kissing during a public function, but the court quashed all charges and instead described such legal complaints as “frivolous”. While the courts thought that kissing was no big deal, our observation tells us that a wide section of society clearly considers kissing a taboo. Many cited 294 of IPC to justify the video. It’s true, my friend, that according to this vague legal verbatim the couple can be booked, but since when legality has became morality? Triple Talaq is valid, homosexuality is criminal…will you also justify them simply because it’s legal?

The couple was asking for it – We often tend to get uncomfortable seeing couples kissing in parks or theatres. Many of us are not comfortable with showing affection. But how does your reluctance for public display of love give you the right to accuse others of indecent behavior, impair their image and seriously jeopardize their privacy and even security? One can only imagine what they must be going through. To say that the couple was asking for it displays typical victim blaming and as much as you would like to believe so, nobody likes to be filmed secretly, bombarded with unnecessary attention or be the subject of public ridicule. The couple may have exercised better discretion and sensibility keeping in mind that they are in a public space. However, if they made you so uncomfortable then instead of making a video to satisfy your voyeuristic tendencies, you should have either told them to get a room or simply averted your gaze.

Such behaviour is against Indian Culture/Sanskars – First of all, who has the right to decide which actions are in accordance with Indian culture?  I’m a part of Indian public so, does my opinion count?  Secondly, once upon a time Sati, child marriage and untouchability were accepted part of the Indian culture, were such “cultural” notions/practices not challenged? Lastly, if your sanskaar allows a creep to circulate MMS, but shames consenting adults then god bless you. By the way, I suggest you to see some pictures of Khajuraho temple as well.

One shouldn’t expect any privacy in public spaces – While one shouldn’t necessarily expect any privacy in public place, one doesn’t expect to be filmed, that too without consent either.

Uncertain state of Right to Privacy in India – While the Supreme Court has held privacy to be a fundamental right, it is restricted to certain aspects of a person’s life.  There is no statutory privacy legislation at present that comprehensively protects privacy. Rather, a combination of acts- 67 and 67(A) of IT Act, 354C of IPC, 66E of ITA-2000, these too are often tricky and insufficient.

Overall, the Privacy Rights need to be strengthened in India. Fortunately, some efforts have been made in this direction, such as Justice A. P. Shah panel, appointed by the Planning Commission  has recommended comprehensive laws to protect privacy and personal data in the private as well as public spheres. Similarly, The Privacy (Protection) Bill, 2013 is also a step in establishing concrete and clear provisions. Hopefully, this Bill sees the light of the day, till then; let us stop being the internet-version of Bajraj Dal.

Image Credits: tulunadunews.com

Niharika Dabral

niharikad@dubeat.com



Niharika Dabral is an average anti-national feminist who is currently pursuing Journalism at Cluster Innovation Center. This quixotically honest and technologically challenged Garhwali strongly advocates that Harry Potter must be included in elementary education. If you want to rant about how unfair life is or want to share something awful or awesome that needs to be reported then feel free to drop her a line at niharikad@dubeat.com 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *