On Monday, the Kerela High Court dismissed a case stating ‘nudity and obscenity should not always be considered synonymous’. Justice Dr Kauser Edappagath quashed the case against a 33-year-old woman rights activist, who had faced a case under the POCSO Act on charges of allowing her two minor children to paint on her semi-nude upper part of the body while explaining, “Society’s morality and some people’s sentiments cannot be the reason for instituting a crime and prosecuting a person. An action is permissible if it does not violate any of the laws of the land. The notions of social morality are inherently subjective. Morality and criminality are not coextensive. What is considered as morally wrong is not necessarily legally wrong”.
This case arises from a video that was posted by Rehana Fathima in 2020. The video showing her two minor children painting on her semi-nude torso attracted various sections of the POCSO Act, IT Act and Juvenile Justice Act. Furthermore, she was arrested and denied bail. The Court dropped all the charges against her and said, “The final report does not support or even draw a prima facie case for any of the statutory offences as alleged. The trial court overlooked the context in which the video was published and the message it had given to the public at large. There is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the petitioner”.
The Court said, “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. 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, the intention of the petitioner in making and uploading the video was to expose this double standard prevailing in society’’.
It is to be noted that Rehana Fathima is a Kerala-based activist who entered the shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala after the Supreme Court allowed it. Furthermore, she also was a part of the ‘Kiss of Love’ protests in Kochi in 2014. Right now, she was fighting against the increased stigmatization of the over-sexualized female body.