Public Display Of Affection, And Its Relevance In The Urban Landscape

Posted on January 6, 2012 in Society

By Nilima Chaudhary:

To kiss or not to kiss, is the eternal question! Well, at least for the ‘n’ number of love-struck souls out there. Mind you, it’s not just curious teenagers but also educated professionals, ageing uncles and aunties alike! Gone are those days, when we imagined a public park in our heads, we’d think of little children playing in the parks engrossed in their game of hide and seek. Fast forward to 2012, and the only image you can conjure up in your head is of a vast green carpet dotted with couples indulging in ‘risque behaviour’.

Whether we approve of it or not is another question, but it is one of the most commonplace sights in our life, especially in metropolitan cities. Parks are not the only haunts, others being private cabs, rickshaws and A/C buses. Although, one may criticize their gamey behavior in public but are we really qualified to judge them? And on the basis of what?

It makes me wonder at times, if love is an acceptable act then why is not it’s expression? Obviously, the term ‘expression’ is subject to interpretation but there should at least be an attempt made to define it! I think it’s safe to conclude that holding hands, hugging and even slight pecks in public are completely innocent. If these gestures make us all go mushy and ‘awww’y when we see them on the big screen, then why not in real life? Of course, there is always this question of ‘How much is too much?’ and it needs to be tackled wisely. When the situation turns from romance to carnality… err… does somebody need to get a room?

Under section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, Public Display of Affection (PDA) is a criminal offence with a punishment of imprisonment up to 3 months or a fine, or both. This law has been blatantly misused by the police and the lower courts to harass couples, apparently engaging in PDA. The problem is that the law doesn’t talk explicitly about PDA instead, in vague terms leaving behind enough scope for it to be misused. Therefore, an exhibitionist and persons hugging in public fall in the same category!

There is an urgent need to clarify and define what is obscene and what is not. India is a conservative country and anything new that creeps up is bound to startle our systems. In an age and time like today’s, where we deal with brand consciousness, latest gadgets, instant software updates, and facebook statuses and life at the speed of tweets, we still haven’t gotten over that ‘code of conduct’ between a parent and his/her child. Bringing your boyfriend or girlfriend home is a taboo for so many even if it is just hanging out! It leaves many like us with very few options and hence, we set out on an endless quest for ‘privacy’.

Times are changing and the youth definitely accepts PDA as a natural part of their life, be it with friends or a love interest. Simply put down, something as genuine as a hug or a kiss should not be source of such conflict. What do you think?