This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Uzma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Couples Arrested, Books Banned: Is Moral Policing In India A Cause For Worry?

More from Uzma

By Uzma Shamim:

We often cringe when we see couples kissing or showing affection on the roads. We often tend to get uncomfortable seeing such sights in parks or theatres, or any other kind of public space. Many of us are not comfortable with showing affection even towards our loved ones in public. However, does your averseness for public display of love give you the right to accuse them of indecent behaviour, mar their image and put them behind bars? Moral policing, as we all know has become too common and predominant to neglect, and the manifold increase in arrests of couples, involved in a show of physical love, is just one aspect of it. In April this year, a youth in Thrissur district of Kerala was beaten to death by an agitated mob for just being found in the house of a woman he knew well.


Those who support moral policing often state that the so called modern approach and western influences has made moral policing an obligation, for those who wish to preserve the tradition and culture of India. However, if we trace the history of such incidents, it goes as back as the early 1990’s. Right from Muslim vigilante groups that threatened women to cover their faces, to when members of Shiv Sena barged in a pub in Mangalore and beat up a group of men and women, the trend over the years has just worsened. The most shocking manifestation being the one in August 2015, when the Mumbai Police raided hotels and guest houses near Aksa Beach and Madh Island, and detained about 40 couples.

However, the legal back up for the idea of moral policing stands on very unstable grounds. The couples arrested on the charge of moral policing are booked under Section 110 (indecent behaviour in public) of the Bombay Police Act. However nowhere has it been specified what constitutes indecent behaviour in public. This gives certain police authorities and even right wing groups leeway to impose their opinion on society.

Moral policing exists also in the domain of cinema, with certain films being denounced as prejudiced in favour of a particular religion or philosophy by groups which do not propagate similar ones. There have been many movies which have gained political acclaim but haven’t seen the light of day in India like Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday, Deepa Mehta’s Fire and many more. Filmmakers have also accused the Cinematograph Act of 1952 being utilised in a wrongful way to curb the creative freedom of filmmakers with just one body, namely the Censor Board, unilaterally taking all decisions in the name of protecting ‘public good’. There was recent trouble in this area, in February this year, with the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) bringing out a list of words which were henceforth banned from being used in films. The practice has made its presence felt in the literary world too. So called morality enforcement groups also keep a tab on literary activity in the nation with regular demands for books to be banned, and threats to the authors and publishing houses. This includes books like The Ramayana as told by Aubrey Menen or Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim.

Contrary to popular opinion, moral policing is not just the restraint placed by the authorities on the display of love in the public space. It is the curtailment of any kind of action, individual or collective based on the ground of moral principles. The seriousness of the issue has been augmenting because the idea of moral policing has become so ingrained in the minds of the public that even without realising, we impose it on ourselves. We are often apprehensive about expressing ourselves in public because of the fear of being judged, based on our moral standards, by the society. This is because we know that the moment we digress a bit from the conventionally held norms, we shall be labelled as heretics.

What’s wrong with moral policing, is that it goes against the most basic premise of a democracy, that is, personal autonomy and freedom. Who has the right to decide which actions are decent or obscene for the public? Why such hullabaloo against sex within confined doors, when consensual sex even without marriage is not a crime in India? Isn’t it sheer hypocrisy and sexism to classify drinking in the public for men to be appropriate while women are defamed for the same? Why the need to superimpose one’s opinions on the other? What constitutes morality and who has the authority to impose it are two questions we, as an independent nation, need to urgently address.

You must be to comment.
  1. Avinesh Saini

    The point is, why exactly should people cringe looking at people kissing in public? Why can’t these people just be ignored? Why can’t people just pretend that they do not even exist?

  2. Kumar Saurav

    The problem is that if we saw a couple hanging out we pass comment on them,and even talk about the character of the girl but on the other hand if we saw a girl is being molested we didn’t bother to help her out.These type of mentality needs to be change.

More from Uzma

Similar Posts

By Rohit Malik

By Akshat Vats


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below