The much-publicised Kiss of Love movement is a nonviolent protest against moral policing. It began when people came together to make a point about displaying love, rather than hate. A result is the debate on how much physical display of affection can be permitted in public.
According to the authors of Romantic Physical Affection Types and Relationship Satisfaction, published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, physical affection can be displayed in various forms. It has been categorised into seven types: holding hands, cuddling, back rubs, caressing, kissing on the face, hugging and kissing on the lips.
Despite the positive effect within relationships, public display of affection (PDA) can be interpreted depending on the context and the observer’s perspective.
PDA can be indicative of the person’s relationship security and personality. Even in many western countries it is not socially acceptable to be overly explicit.
The kiss protesters were booked under Section 294 as their acts were considered to be a form of obscenity. The Act states: “Whoever, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.” The problem is: who defines ‘culturally appropriate’ and ‘obscene’? And when it comes to PDA, how much is too much?
It is difficult to say that public display of affection is a western concept alone. In this very society, the human body is worshipped, the Kama Sutra originated and, of course, the temples of Khajuraho have depictions of explicit sexual postures.
Leaving the invisible lines of cultural diversions aside, people need to follow certain etiquettes for the wellbeing of all. It is most necessary to share and show love to our close ones; however, the timing and location are central in determining the appropriateness of our decisions.
When it comes to condemning PDA, fundamentalists and fringe groups, granted they have a right to disapprove, have no business to resort to violence. They should take recourse to the law and complain to the law enforcement authority. Having said that, it is necessary to understand why people resort to PDA. Thanks to cramped living spaces in the cities, young married couples in joint families perhaps find the semi privacy of a beach or an empty park more comfortable. Also, with the age of marriage increasing yearly, premarital sex has grown exponentially.
Surely, the occasional hand-holding is not looked down upon. However, when this leads to explicit gestures in these public spaces, where do we draw the line? In today’s world of violence, expressing love must be promoted. But couples must respect fellow members of society while expressing their love for one another in public. Youth must be provided appropriate sex education; including the extent to which PDA is acceptable. In a joint family, members can make an effort to ensure privacy for couples.