Generally speaking, moral police are vigilante groups operating to enforce morality in India. There are some laws in India, and some actions of the police there, which are considered moral policing. Any behaviour that vigilante groups, law enforcement agencies, or the government perceives as “immoral” and/or “against Indian culture” is the focus of moral policing.
Assaults of young people are becoming increasingly widespread across the country, and the latest incident recently reported out of Mangalore has brought into question the laws prevailing in the country. Additionally, many people expressed outrage towards the role of the media during such a time of crisis. In its reporting on these moral goons in our cities, the City Express talked with a couple of city lawyers to understand their constitutional validity.
Neither our Constitution nor our national laws permit the function of a ‘moral police’. That concept should be reexamined. Oftentimes, moral police enforcement appears to be an act perpetrated by frustrated men who don’t have much else to do in their lives other than to bully people.
It is not surprising that the recent Mangalore case raises safety concerns in the IT hub also, and we must review all laws currently in place to safeguard society against such atrocities. To tame such uncivilized behaviour, the self-appointed moral police who ransacked the birthday party is an awakening call for the government to implement tough legislation.
In the upcoming proceedings, Madhukar, a practising advocate says that he can use the Goons Act, as well as several sections from the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to punish those involved in the attack. Additionally, there is a grave violation of human rights and the rights of women under the UN Charter, to which India is a signatory.
Therefore, the concept of morality is very individualistic, which means that some cannot take the law into their own hands to canvass their view of morality. However, Indian canon law clearly states that an individual should live following the social norms that are widely accepted.
Another advocate, Sandeep Katti, speaks about these individuals’ intrusion into his privacy. He says that the question of privacy intrusion arises when any action is carried out within his home. While one cannot expect privacy in a public place, the moral police can be charged with molestation under section 354 of the IPC, assault under section 351 and rape under section 376.
Lawyer Sharath Ganapathy, challenging the moral police perspective, asks that how can one call himself moral police when you can’t even defend your actions and attack the modesty of women at the same time?.
It is an unjust act that does not seem to have an answer even in the law. A law should bring such criminals to justice and any person should not be permitted to use any weapon and arbitrarily decide what to do. Our country should move forward with the implementation of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act, 1967).
As of late, there have been a lot of complaints about the role played by various television channels under these circumstances. According to Dona Fernandes, a social activist from Vimochana, “Media is responsible as much as the criminal who committed the crime.”. It is about time media ethics were emphasized again. Repeated exposure to these visuals is yet another way of insulting the victims.”
Aruniti Mondal, a 24-year-old working single woman in Kolkata, India, got involved in a violation that bordered on assault during the summer of 2017. The incident changed her perspective on the treatment women receive in her country.
One evening she was sitting on a bench overlooking the Dhakuria Lake in the central business district when the incident happened. Mondal described seeing three men in their late teens or early twenties pacing back and forth behind her and her male friend while enjoying a cup of chai. Mondal noted that these men were bothering them and her friend. Mondal noticed their strange movements at that moment, and he sensed something was amiss. She turned around and saw one of the men masturbating against a tree while the two other men laughed.
A female companion and a male companion confronted the three men in disgust and requested they stop. The men responded by accusing the couple of being vulgar by hanging out in public alone, which agitated them and made them want to indulge in sexual acts. Montal and her friend left the lake following this confrontation.
The Impacts Of Moral Policing
- Ultimately Promotes Conservatism: The act of moral policing adversely affects the development of our society as a whole when it recognizes, in an extremely rigid manner, the role of different genders, which ultimately leads to the promotion of conservatism.
- Gender Biasness: It leads to an environment of gender biasedness, which makes it difficult for the women of our society to move freely and act independently. As an example, aggressive groups are issuing restrictions on western clothing for women.
- Hindrance on Fundamental Rights: The belief that the political process and basic rights of citizens of India are unachievable by culture groups says that democracy and the realization of the Indian citizens’ rights do not have a chance if a certain act does not meet the standards of their cultural values.
- Rising Intolerance: Moral policing makes for a dangerous situation as it never allows even the slightest space for tolerance and difference to exist, which can cause conflict and altercations in society.
- Affecting Educational Institutions: Moral vigilante groups inside the campus of their educational institutions keep a tab on the behaviour of their students and more so, they maintain a ‘moral compass.’
- Lynches: Lynchings are collective hate crimes committed by groups. A fake rumour spreads through social media, politicians, police officers, and others are inactive and inactive attitudes cause this situation.
- Cultural Terrorism: In cultural terrorism, individuals and groups outside of the constitution (such as political outfits or cultural groups) attempt to impose their personal beliefs through violence. The conduct of these actors is more coercive and arbitrary.
- Honor Killing: This crime is disdainful on account of its psychological complexity, its complexity in social relationships and it is regarded as one of the most morally distressing crimes against humanity.
- Cow Vigilantism: There is a problem with cow vigilantism that threatens the lives of minorities in India, including Muslims and Dalits. Furthermore, asome reports point out that moral policing has been growing in popularity.
Anyone can become a victim of moral policing
Those affected were quick victims of moral policing, a contributing cause of social discord in India. Among other Hindi ultra-orthodox commands that fall under the wing of moral policing are the shame of couples holding hands and the injunction against boys and girls sitting together. Originally written in 1860, Sections 292 to 294 in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were used in an attempt to combat or prevent “obscenity,” which was a term whose intent was not always clear. It’s an age-old trend in moral policing that’s gaining momentum in the present day as “obscenity” remains in the eye of the beholder.
A particularly ugly case caught the attention of the media in Assam, in July 2018, when it was reported that a couple had been beaten and the female had her head forcibly shaved because they had an affair with another woman in the village. It was discovered shortly after midnight that townspeople had destroyed the couple’s clothes, tortured them for most of the night, and caused serious injuries that led to the pair being taken to the hospital. Villagers who committed this brazen attack justified their actions by pointing out that the couple had each cheated on their spouses.
“I felt angry for my friends and family members when I began hearing about these kinds of encounters. But I never thought I would encounter such an encounter”, says Mondal who was a victim of such a moral policing incident.
Acts of moral policing generally aren’t violent, but they can still lead to a criminal complaint. Especially concerning is that Mondal’s experience underscores the way women and girls’ bodies have increasingly become targets of moral judgment and scrutiny in a country where women are routinely targeted and treated as distractions.
As soon as friends and family members started telling me about these kinds of experiences, Mondal felt angry with them. It is not something she expected to encounter.
Her portrayal of her today shares many characteristics of someone subject to moral policing many times over. Her long curly hair was tucked into a bun as she wore a combination of ethnic and Western clothing, her silver oxidized earrings, and silver oxidized earrings, and she said her family and friends value her fun, sweet nature. Mondal developed her ability to stand up for herself at home by living in a conservative family environment.
According to Mondal, who works at a non-profit that focuses on empowering women, women are commonly subjected to moral policing when young couples are seen together, or more rarely a pair of male and female. In their societies, they are accused of corrupting the minds of men and face character assassination.
Even though Mondal has worked in sexual harassment for more than twenty years, she never realized that she had been victimized.
She said that so when something like this happened to me, she was totally speechless, disgusted, and just shocked. As a woman working to promote women’s rights, she had often heard such stories from other women and they are usually related to traditional and religious ideologies.”
Political factors play an important role
The encounter between Mondal and the men by the lake was not fueled by religion, but by the religious and traditional undertones – and ultra-conservative ideologies – being propagated by the current Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister of India, that is Narendra Modi.
The concept of moral policing was not so important before Modi’s reelection, but this time he emphasized the idea of a Hindu nation and the process of Hinduization, including the “safety” of girls and women. In some communities, there are still extremist right-wing elements, which disrupt or threaten the peace and harmony of the population. Secular societies do not allow such elements to exist.
They define protecting women and girls as separating them from their unmarried partners, physically and mentally abusing them, as well as gender-based attacks. These practices have been taken too far by our leaders and vigilante groups since then.
Her punishment for not listening to us is being hit. Her punishment is to be beaten. We are “misbehaving.”
Recently, a BJP leader who once said he wanted to “save” Hindu women from marrying Muslim men was quoted saying, “If she won’t listen to us, we start hitting her because getting her beaten up is part of our strategy and we misbehave like that”. Mondal, the victim of moral policing as well as a follower of politics, pays attention to words like these. She recognizes that moral policing of couples (especially inter-religious couples) can be a low-budget and cost-effective method of gaining national prominence when the parties are perceived as upholding Hindu tradition and cultural values.
Hate speech is the new black, according to Mondal.
Protecting your rights and obtaining legal assistance
Those charged with obscenity in India are dealt with under Sections 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code. The majority of these laws date back to 1860. In the Indian Penal Code Section 292, the sale and dissemination of obscene materials are punishable by up to five years in jail. It criminalizes materials like books and paintings if they are considered lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest.
It was modified in 1969 to exclude material that is for the public good (like condom ads), scientific materials, art, and religious figures from the criminal code. The Police are also entitled to file complaints against film posters and advertisement hoardings that are deemed to be obscene under Section 292 of the IPC.
Under Section 293 of the Federal Code, obscene material can be sold to children under the age of 20. “Obscene acts or songs” are addressed by Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, and the charges are as follows:
Those who offend others, to their annoyance
(a) Engages in any kind of obscene act in a public place, or
(b) Recites or sings any obscene ballad, song, or words in or near any public place,
Any violation of this section shall result in imprisonment of either description for a period that may extend to three months, or a fine, or both.
Obscene acts do not have a standardized definition and are quite subject to interpretation. It is frequently invoked by the police to justify moral policing.
A law advocating the prevention of immoral trafficking (previously known as the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, or PITA) was passed in 1956 to prevent human trafficking. When the police suspect a sexual racket is being operated in a hotel, they may raid it. This law has been used by the police to raid hotels and arrest consenting couples.
In addition to this, the Indian obscenity laws are frequently compared with the Hicklin test.
Several months later, Mondal said she was subjected to moral policing once again at a mall food court with a male colleague. A colleague said two women approached Mondal and pointed out something she was wearing that was inappropriate. Their question was why she was hanging out with a male who was not a member of her immediate family. It took Mondal some time to become comfortable speaking up after being shaken by the confrontation a year ago.
As she recalls, she thought that Who do they think they are to her? My mother? My father and even they would never say any thing like that . How dare they ask what I’m doing?” At that point, she reported they shouted at her harshly: “Say what you said to my face! Do you think you have autonomy over that which I do? People like you bring shame and disgrace to other Indians and not us.”
Mondal fears that her behaviour as an independent woman in India is unjustly regarded as immoral as she continues to lead a modern, independent life. Moreover, she is concerned about existing authorities such as the state or local police due to their inability to handle cases relating to violence against women.
“I am more afraid of the cops than anyone else when I come home late at night, whether it’s from work, an event, or hanging out with friends.” She said their mindsets are stuck in such a way that they are not able to address or consider the many identities that women have assumed in the world today.
It continues to be a problem that Indian women are victimized by other people’s interpretation of what is wrong or right behaviour. The ideology of religious fundamentalism is directly related to such derogatory behaviour, said Mondal. Governments and local governments need to put forth an effort to assist. It is not about passing more laws, but rather about enforcing those laws.
There are protests against moral policing
The Pink Chaddi campaign started in 2009 following an attack on a Mangalore pub. An organisation called Consortium of Pub going, Loose Forward Women was behind the campaign. In response to the campaign, people were encouraged to send pink underwear to Pramod Muthalik, the leader of Sri Ram Sena, which was responsible for the attacks. More than 34,000 people participated in the campaign.
Kerala’s ‘Kiss of Love campaign, launched as a protest against moral policing on November 2, 2014, saw public hugging and kissing held as part of the campaign. Other cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai later organized similar events.
Steps to take to stop moral policing:
- Creating Awareness: Public debate, discussion and discussion within schools and colleges are vital since they help develop awareness and sensibility toward different moral policies. You need to understand that moral policies are against the law.
- Educate Students: Families are the first teachers of children. Such people have not been properly educated and do not have a proper understanding of the law. Therefore, our children need to understand that such people are not from a well-educated background.
- A Reform of the Criminal Justice System: Changes should be made to the criminal justice system, so that the administration may be instilled with a sense of sensitivity and awareness of constitutional values.
- Providing training to police officials: It could be a critical factor in regulating such activities in society. However, a few officers’ laxities were spoiling the department’s image, even though the majority of them were doing well. The force should be capable of handling provocations intelligently.
- Tackle Fake Rumors: It is crucial to ensure that we have separate laws that are designed to deal with such grave violence. Stop fake rumours from spreading on social media: There is a dire need to implement laws that will work with standard operating procedures in dealing with fake rumours.
- Mob psychology: Understanding their energy requires understanding their mindset. They remain powerless and regrettable without one another. It is quite natural that they hide behind a good cause, such as politics or religion.