“Few issues symbolize India’s contrasts and divisions more than the debate over public displays of affection, which touches on issues related to family values, politics and just how much and how fast India should mirror the West,” writes Emily Wax, in an interesting Washington Post story published a week ago Sunday.
A decade after the once-chaste Bollywood film industry got away with its first on-screen kiss on the lips, the proliferation of sexual displays in music videos, film and literature has angered a small but vociferous minority of Hindu conservatives, who say they want to preserve India’s vaunted and ancient heritage from what they see as the vapid values that come with globalization. [...]
“Moral police,” sometimes organized by regional Hindu nationalist parties and sometimes just vigilantes with a point of view, have been increasingly on the prowl recently. Last month, Hindu extremist mobs attacked Star TV offices in Mumbai, the cultural capital of the country, for airing a story on an interfaith couple who had eloped.
In the past year, members of a conservative Hindu nationalist party have attacked stores carrying Valentine’s Day cards, and a government-appointed committee has banned a channel called Fashion TV. Sex education books have been blacklisted in some state schools.
At the same time, notes Wax, there has been some criticism that the commotion over kissing is distracting from real issues:
“Where’s the outrage when a woman is raped by her brother-in-law or when thousands of daughters of India are killed every year for an unpaid dowry?” asked Girija Vyas, chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, who sat in her Delhi government office last week fielding calls from girls trying to escape abusive arranged marriages. “These protesters should come out when someone is raped.”
“Domestic violence, bride burning and sex-selective abortion . . . are all still there in many Indian lives,” Vyas said. “We should be opening the sky for Indian women and for India, not wasting energy when someone kisses a woman versus rapes her. These extremists are dividing society.”