The Kerala High Court, while examining a case, has raised questions regarding the vastly different manner in which naked or semi-naked bodies of males and females are viewed and treated by society.
Justice Kauser Edappagath opined that nudity should not be automatically assumed as sexual but must be considered in the appropriate context.
"Nudity should not be tied to sex. The mere sight of the naked upper body of the woman should not be deemed to be sexual by default. So also, the depiction of the naked body of a woman cannot per se be termed to be obscene, indecent, or sexually explicit. The same can be determined to be so only in context," he observed.
The judge also pointed out that nude female sculptures in temples and other public spaces are considered as art or even holy.
He also referred to the agitation by women in Kerala against the discriminatory "breast tax" or "mulakkaram" in British ruled India which involved a woman named Nangeli cutting off her breasts in protest.
"It is wrong to classify nudity as essentially obscene or even indecent or immoral. This is a state where women of certain lower castes had once fought for the right to cover their breasts. We have murals, statues, and art of deities displayed in the semi-nude in ancient temples run all over the country. Such nude sculptures and paintings freely available in public spaces are considered art, even holy. Even though the idols of all goddesses are bare-chested, when one prays at the temple, the feeling is not of sexual explicitness but of divinity," the Court said in its judgment.
Pertinently, the court pointed out the hypocrisy in treating the naked male body with a different yardstick than the female body.
"Body painting on men is an accepted tradition during 'Pulikali' festivals in Thrissur. When 'Theyyam' and other rituals are performed at the temple, painting is conducted on the bodies of male artists. The male body is displayed in the form of six-pack abs, biceps etc. We often find men walking around without wearing shirts. But these acts are never considered to be obscene or indecent," it observed.
It went on to surmise that the people who consider women's bodies to be inherently obscene do so because they are used to considering women's bodies as one merely an object of desire.
"When the half-nude body of a man is conceived as normal and not sexualised, a female body is not treated in the same way. Some people are so used to considering a woman's naked body as an overly sexualised one or just an object of desire. There is another dimensional view about female nudity - that is, female nudity is taboo because a naked female body is only meant for erotic purposes."
The court's observations came in its judgment quashing a case registered against a women's rights activist for offences punishable under various provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act
The case was registered against her after she posted a video on her social media platforms showing her two minor children painting on her semi-nude torso.
( 540 Words)