No Regrets, Says Model 'Slut Shamed' For Breastfeeding On Magazine Cover

Malayalam magazine Grihalakshmi's March issue featured a striking image of model Gilu Joseph staring straight at the camera, with a baby at her breast.

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Kerala High Court dismissed claims that the Malayalam magazine cover on breastfeeding was obscene.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Model Gilu Joseph's photograph, bare-breasted and nursing a baby, on the cover of a Malayalam magazine isn't obscene, the Kerala High Court has ruled, dismissing a petition that wanted action against the magazine.

The judges said they didn't, "despite our best efforts", see any obscenity in the magazine's cover this March that had triggered a controversy.

"We look at the picture, like we look at paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Varma. As beauty lies in the beholder's eye, so does obscenity, perhaps," a bench of Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Doma Seshadri Naidu said in its judgment, a copy of which was made yesterday.

"What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man's vulgarity is another man's lyric, so to say.... May we observe, Indian psyche has been so mature for ages that it could see the sensuous even in the sacred. The paintings in Ajanta and the temple architecture are cases in point," the judges said.

The court ruling comes as a huge relief to 28-year-old Gilu Joseph, the model who had championed breastfeeding on the cover of a magazine popular in Kerala, Grihalakshmi.

It was part of a campaign, "Breastfeed Freely" that intends to raise awareness to stop shaming women breastfeeding in public. The text on the cover reads: "Mothers tell Kerala: please stop staring, we need to breastfeed."

Gilu Joseph, the model and the face at the centre of a row that broke out soon after the photograph was published, told NDTV that she had no regrets, had stood her ground and was prepared for all the online shaming that followed.

"I was slut shamed, was termed a blue-film actor. My mother was called names. But I knew I would have to hear all this. I took it in my stride. This issue is about breastfeeding and it's an important cause. There is no question of regretting anything. This is my work. I have cared in films as a mother, what's so different about this," Ms Joseph, a Dubai-based model told NDTV.

The petition in the high court was one of the many complaints that people who objected to the cover magazine had filed.

Felix MA, a tailor who approached the high court to seek action, told NDTV that he still thinks the model's photograph was "morally degrading".

"I have lost my 5-month-old daughter. I know the pain of breastfeeding. All the months that she was in the intensive care unit, my wife could not visit her due to her own infection. I used to carry pumped milk for my daughter. And now, in this picture, an unmarried model is seen holding an infant and posing as if she is breastfeeding. Is this acceptable?" Felix MA said.

It is a point that his lawyer, Biju, had also made in his petition. The judges didn't agree with the petitioner but found him to be "seemingly sensitive and scrupulous".

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