The poor can’t afford it, the rich can do away with it, so why be so middle-class about it ?

The moral landscape of the West perceived through the Indian eyes is usually one of an erotic roller coaster. This “sexually emancipated” model of the West is presented in Western and Indian media alike. This has encouraged a wave of sexual liberalization in urban, semi-urban and even rural India but it has brought with it a conservative backlash too. Has India managed to foster a balance ? 

In 2009, activists of the Sri Rama Sena in Mangalore, Karnataka, raided the pub “Amnesia – The Lounge” and physically assaulted young women and men. What is their rationale ? According to its founder, “Why should girls go to pubs? Are they going to serve their future husbands alcohol ? Should they not be learning to make chapattis ?”. While some may be attacking pubs, still others threaten to marry dating couples on V´day and most discriminate sexual minorities. In Madhya Pradesh, special police units like “Nirbhaya squads” venture far beyond their scope and dole out punishments such as forcing young couples caught romancing to do sit-ups !!!. As recent as 2013, a Mumbaite was fined for kissing his girlfriend goodbye by the Mumbai police. Using rape as an excuse, moral policing is on the rise in India almost as a conservative backlash. However what they forget is that in this dog-eat-dog world, it is impossible to prohibit or make obligatory some or other action universally. 

Even today, it is not uncommon to find young Indians from all religions who are sanctimonious and vocal at the faintest ripple in their perceived notion of Indian/religious morality. These self-righteous, self appointed custodians of desi morality categorize women into either asexualised angels with no desire of their own, a subservient sati-savitri in a burqa or as hyper-sexualised unicorns in a forbidden fantasy world. Consequently, it dichotomizes the perception of women in to either “respectable good women” who are to be dealt with protectively or the “bad women” who can be violated and messed with. What impact does this anti-septic strain of morality have on other young Indian men and women? Surprisingly, the effect is different across the genders. The young men aspire for sexual “conquests” and to be “cool” to peers and conveniently save the puritan bug for their women-folk. As per a survey, approximately 60% of young men in the city of Bangalore today “stay-in” with their girl friends, yet 90% of these same men prefer virgin wives !!!!. The young women who aspire to pit themselves in the “respectable camp”, judge and spew venom on other women who are confident in expressing their sexuality. It almost appears as if the so called “good girls” obtain their self-esteem and pleasure by distinguishing themselves from the “bad girls”. If this be the state of morality for man-woman relationships, the perception of sexual minorities is even worse than a night mare. While the English-Indian media and national channels may be in love with the LGBT in the past years, the vernacular channels are on an effective backlash. Even in the most literate states of India like Kerala, talk shows propagating how to “prevent and cure” homosexuality by psychologists and educated social activists are aired. As though homosexuality is some sort of an imported disease !!!. In a nutshell, over the decades, this on-going war of morals in India has generated a breed of moral Frankensteins. 

Morality has never been a static phenomenon, it has been constantly contested, re-framed or manipulated to suit the changes evolving in society over time. The Indian youth are definitely busy playing hide and seek with the moral police, can they not have the freedom for an educated choice on the moral values they want to adopt ?


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