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  Life   More Features  27 Sep 2017  A matter of taste

A matter of taste

Published : Sep 27, 2017, 12:21 am IST
Updated : Sep 27, 2017, 12:21 am IST

The Supreme Court in a recent judgment had ruled that obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person.

The Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 The Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

What was obscenity anyway?

Nobody knows what is obscene. The dictionary definition classifies the word as foul, disgusting, offending against accepted levels of morals or taste. The dynamics or the levels of acceptance have undergone a sea change. What was unacceptable has come to be accepted now. Taking into our purview a wide range of changing areas such as cinema, culture, media, lifestyles, relationships etc, we have, by default allowed obscenity to saturate on to our present day lives.


It is ironical that we do not have a clear-cut definition of what exactly entails obscenity, which makes its undoing even more complex. While commercial exploitation of sexuality ought to be condemned, depicting healthy sexuality should be permitted. The internet, which is otherwise a revolutionary necessity, is an entirely unlimited window of possibilities, where obscenity is concerned. A blanket ban is impractical and its usage can’t be supervised at all times. Since we are not in a position to categorise the areas of obscenity, a pragmatic approach would be to equip people to be more aware and discriminative.

What is more obscene is religious groups misinterpreting the definition to gain control over the community psyche, or political parties making a lot of caste-based noise for political mileage. Law does not define what is obscene but it sure does prescribe the punishment for alleged obscene material. A guidance committee that lists a code for obscenity must consider including sexologists, psychologists, sociologists and other pertinent professionals instead of political appointees to check the outlook.


The writer is a sexologist. Mail him at

Tags: supreme court, obscene