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While rapes and sexual crimes are on the rise, Kerala couple gets fined for 'PDA'

Sharika Nair
23rd Feb 2017
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Kerala police fine couple for ‘PDA’, but police chief apologises after livestream of incident goes viral

Kerala is known as God’s own country, thanks to the lush greenery and the scenic rivers and lakes of this tiny southern state. High literacy and political awareness are qualities appreciated in the Malayali population. But the state is also quite conservative, and it is quite debatable if the high education standards of the women in the state translate into empowerment.

Case in point, a couple who were sitting in the park in Thiruvananthapuram Museum premises on Tuesday morning were approached by two women constables, who accused them of vulgar behaviour, otherwise known as Public Display of Affection (PDA). But the irony is that the only PDA indulged by the couple was the man had his arm around his fiancée’s shoulder. The constables, who probably expected the couple to be embarrassed or scared were in a for a surprise. The man, identified as Vishnu Vichu, started livestreaming the unsavoury incident on Facebook.

kerala-moral-policing
A screenshot from Vishnu's live video

In the video, the policewomen claim that they were “hugging” each other first and then, that they were “kissing”. On being accused of something the couple confidently claim they hadn’t done, they asked the cops to furnish proof that they were indulging in ‘vulgar behaviour’.

Vishnu can be heard asking in the video, "Tell us what indecent activity have we committed? Did we kiss? There are cameras here. Did we hug each other? You can't harass us just because we have our arm on the other's shoulder."

The couple who were harassed by the police

The policewomen called two of their male colleagues, who took the couple to the police station, where they were fined Rs 200 for committing ‘public nuisance’.

Loknath Behera, the Police Chief of Kerala, apologised after the live video went viral and elicited condemnation from all the quarters. He posted the below message on Facebook.

I am pained to learn the complaint (though I have not received), about some police personnel (Vanitha Police), who reportedly misbehaved with a couple in the premises of the Museum, Thiruvananthapuram yesterday (21.02.2017). This, I wish, had not happened. As the State Police Chief, I have ordered an enquiry to be conducted by Shri. Manoj Abraham IPS, IGP, Thiruvananthapuram Range. The law of the land is very clear. No one has the right to disturb or harass any couple anywhere more so in public places. In our country, we impose self-restrain on Public Display of Affection (PDA) due to our culture and tradition, though there is no legal ban for PDA.

However, many people in the society do not support PDA in any public place and they normally call the police. The police cannot ignore such calls, therefore they reach the place and after reaching the place they must act according to law with all politeness. Another side is that sometimes under-aged girls become a victim (without knowing or realising various implications) of such act by some men. It is the duty of the police to ensure that such under-aged girls are neither trapped nor become victims of a crime.

Police is a law enforcement agency, it is not the moral keeper of the society. Therefore we in the police are to be conscious about or aware of our duties and responsibilities. The bottom line is that we should interact with the people in the society, for whom we are working, to ensure their safety and security without infringing on their privacy and their constitutional rights.

 This incident emphasises the importance of citizens being aware of their rights and speaking up while facing unjust situations from law enforcement, government officials or the general public.

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