What Kiss of Love Stands for and What it’s Doing for India

Let’s get this straight. The fact that Indians have to hold a protest on the streets for the freedom to show affection in public is itself ridiculous. On top of that, you oppose the symbolic protest that strives to broaden your mind? Now that’s getting as ridiculous as Shah Rukh Khan’s new movie Happy New Year. We have reached Mars and we still feel the need to assert our moral policing roles in others’ love lives. How typical of us. Before you jump your gun and talk about the holy “Indian culture” that has to be protected, consider what this unique protest actually stands for and what it’s doing for India.

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1. Kiss, Not Sex; Love, Not Lust

Kissing is not a precursor to sexual intercourse. I repeat, kissing is NOT sex. In most of South India, especially in Kerala being seen with a guy or holding hands with a guy or God forbid, expressing affection to a guy in any way, labels the girl as a slut. The couple is subjected to harassment, in the form of looks, words and actions. Kiss of Love stands for the freedom to not be harassed by goons, for showing affection in public, i.e. if one hold hands with someone in a park or shopping mall, kiss or hug someone or celebrate Valentine’s Day with one’s loved one. The natural question then becomes, where do we draw the line? That is a matter of personal discretion and simple common sense. Kiss of Love does not stand for a show of nudity in public, full sexual intercourse in public or non-consensual show of affection in public. You want to kiss, you kiss. Two individuals showing their affection is by no means, any of your business. An aversion to PDA (public display of affection) exists even in the liberal Western world, but nobody harasses or beats anyone up for it. Get the difference?

2. Acceptance for homosexuality

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Among the protests that have taken place in Kochi, Hyderabad and Delhi it has not just been a man and a woman kissing. The Kiss of Love movement recognizes that love is not just heterosexual. It is high time that gay and lesbian love be accepted in the Indian society as a form of love itself and not an aberration or perversion of heterosexual love. Even while being a protest against moral policing, Kiss of Love is also providing voice for the homosexual community in India, causing a lot of butt hurt among the RSS and Hindutva organizations who stand for “Indian culture” and the normative heterosexual love. If the controversial Section 377 that criminalizes homosexuality has to be changed, society’s perception of homosexuality should change. This is what Kiss of Love is doing in a latent way even as they struggle against moral policing and homophobes.

3. Exposing anti-female sentiments in the Indian society

Most counter-protesters (yes, that includes the state and the police who have oppressed the Kiss of Love protesters) have shamelessly engaged in shaming the women who participated in the Kiss of Love protest. Perhaps the most extreme and vulgar example of this can be seen in the Ban Kiss of Love Facebook page of a group called Kochi Freakerz, who have resorted to the despicable act of shaming a popular model and one of the female advocates of Kiss of Love, in an example of moral policing. What more, they have gone on to express “sympathy” for “such women” who are evidently seen as base and immoral. Have they seen the sculptures in Hindu temples that show our goddesses expressing their sexuality and freedom? What “Indian culture” are they talking about? The truth is, by Indian culture, they mean the cloistered Victorian mindset and the puritanism of the British that was reproduced in many ways, through Section 377 and the mindset that women are responsible for “upholding morals” in the society. There has been no other instance that has brought on such widespread anti-female sentiments recently, with some individuals even justifying rape in the context where women are allowed to express love in public! Again, Indian culture? Please understand that rape (non consensual intercourse)  is the perversion, not a consensual public show of affection.

4. A show of love, not violence

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Rapes happen in broad daylight. Murders and assaults happen in public. What is so wrong about kissing in public that irks the Indian society so much? How does a bunch of youthful protesters gathering to kiss and show affection tick off the violent goons of RSS and the police? In a world where wars and terrorism reign, where violence and gore is only causing numbness and less and less indignation, in a world which desperately lacks empathy, why does love and not violence offend you?

5. Conversation-starter within families

Families, being the basic units of society and where most of socialization starts, the Kiss of Love protest capturing national attention contributes to more conversations within families about moral policing, freedom of expression and perhaps even homosexuality. In a context where such a protest is a mainstream discussion topic, there is no better time than now to have a conversation with your family members about what their take is and why they think so.

When I began having conversations about the protest and started showing my support for the movement, more than two male friends expressed their interest of whether I would have gone for the protest if I were in India. Their tone clearly showed the mockery for the nature of the protest. Some others expressed their concern that we should be focusing on other pressing problems such as lack of sanitation, rape cases and corruption. To them I want to ask, is there a priority list somewhere that the society should follow in order to solve issues? Why not appreciate the effort to redefine personal freedom in a repressive society? I don’t know how long this movement will last or what the results will be. But judging from the rapid spread of the protest from Kochi to other parts of India in a matter of days, the youth’s sentiments against moral policing certainly seems like a force to reckon with. In this context, to those protective brothers,sisters, uncles and aunties, who are concerned for their neighbor and “Indian culture” than for the protection of individual freedom, Mwaaaahh! Get well soon 🙂