Moral Policing | Who Decides What Crime Is ?


This is the 21st century. Yes, perhaps India is considered to be an orthodox and conservative society, where relations between men and women are very restricted and kept to a bare minimum and no one talks about sex. Yet, we keep forgetting the old fact that we invented Kama sutra. Forget about that extreme and answer this. Is it that wrong to hug a person of the other gender in public? Is it obscene? Is it immoral?

Recently, students of IIT Madras were shamed for hugging in public. A professor who was passing by saw this and allegedly took pictures of them and harassed them calling them indecent and immoral. As a reaction to this, the students observed Hug day, where over 50 students gathered to hug it out. It was organised as a platform for students to discuss their issues with moral policing and share similar experiences of shaming and harassing.

The Dean of the institute did not take the matter seriously, even though the professor was way out of line and invaded a person’s privacy by clicking pictures without her consent. So, they wrote a petition to the Dean with a list of demands, including appropriate action against the professor for repeatedly taking pictures of other students as well without their consent, for not handling the issue as expected and blaming the victim, an apology from the perpetrator, condemning the act of taking pictures and shaming and a written assurance that such incidents will not happen on campus in the future. The list also included provisions for workshops for security personnel on gender sensitisation, sexual harassment, moral policing and victim-blaming.

This isn’t the first time moral policing as been hitting the news. Numerous incidents of this nature have made its way to headlines, including another recent incident in Mangalore, where a Muslim man was brutally assaulted by a bunch of right-wing activists just because he was in the company of a Hindu girl. Another case of moral policing was reported in Kerala in February, where a man was beaten to death about he was found returning from a house under “suspected circumstance,” according to reports from The Indian Express. But the most infamous case of moral policing that hit the headlines was in the Sri Ram Sena case in 2009, where the right-winged group thrashed a pub in Mangalore and assaulted several men and women claiming that the men and women were ruining Indian culture and tradition.

The contradiction still remains. The relation between men and women are so restricted that even being seen together is a crime, forget about making contact. The ignorance of people for being blamed or harassed is just as bad as committing it yourself. And when we women complain, we are given advice instead of telling us that there are idiots everywhere. Yes, the girl at IIT Madras was asked to stay indoors and not go out in shorts. I don’t know how that matters. 7 year olds are becoming victims to sexual assault. So, frilly frocks are inappropriate too? Moral policing is bad as it is, but it gives a license for people to restrict others from doing things that they feel is morally wrong. Forget about morality. There is a certain way to deal with incidents. There is no need for violence and name-calling at all. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s your problem.

All I’m trying to say is that people need to have an open mind and that our society is seriously messed up. We don’t even understand the definition of obscenity, where item numbers with women wearing almost nothing is accepted, while an innocent hug between two friends of the opposite sex is immoral. This leaves me with one question, after remembering the old fact and looking at how the society evolved through the ages. How did we get here?

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Article contributed by:

Roshni Rajagopal
Head - HR & In-House Writer

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