India is known for its diverse culture and traditions and it’s also known for preserving them well. India has recently been on the forefront of unusual bans with the Government banning whatever goes against their cultural and religious norms. With the newly elected government being in full action, these laws have been implemented in full speed. In fact, 2015 has actually been dubbed the “Year of Bans” due to the subsequent number of weird laws being passed by the Government of India against the most mundane activities. From beef to porn to the screening of Fifty Shades of Grey; it’s a long list, the most bizarre ones are described below. Off course there are many countries across the world that have witnessed some strange bans before, but this list is one you just can’t miss.
1. Kissing in Public/ PDA
In a country with the world’s second largest population, it is kind of illegal to express your love in public. Frankly, any type of public display of affection is a crime. Yes, you read that right! Believe it or not, many couples have been beaten up, even forcefully married when they were found kissing in public or even holding hands. Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits and lays down punishment for obscenity in public places. Although crimes against woman like rape and domestic violence are still in dire need of stricter laws, public display of affection remains a taboo in a culture-driven country like India. In fact, in 2014, this very ban led to a nationwide non-violent protest against moral policing called ‘The Kiss of Love’ following which, thousands of couples came out to kiss on the streets under the threat of being stripped naked if they attempted to violate the laws, by the Right wing opponents. This protest received worldwide attention.
As bizarre as it sounds, beef is one of the latest and most controversial additions to India’s list of bans. In 2015, the government of Maharashtra, India’s second largest state, imposed a ban on selling and possession of beef with a fine of Rs. 10,000 and up to five years of jail time for those found guilty. The ban was a hard blow to all the meat lovers and meat vendors across the state and thus gained widespread protest on social media, but failed to jolt the government. The law was actually passed in lieu of religious norms. The cow is considered as a sacred animal and worshiped in the Hindu religion and India being a Hindu majority state had it coming.
3. Mannequins Displaying Lingerie
Believe it or not, the local authorities of the city of Mumbai have recently voted to ban the display of models wearing bikinis from store windows in a move that they believe, would reduce the number of rapes and other cases of sexual assaults that have recently seen a rise throughout the country! Local councilors believe that mannequins dressed in lacey underwear and sexy stockings are ‘embarrassing’ for girls, have been ‘polluting the minds of men’ across the city and are against the morals of the society! The ban has been passed in lieu of the Provisions of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 which regards ‘depiction of the figure of a woman or any of her body part in an indecent manner as a way of depraving, corrupting or injuring the public morality or morals’!
Ah porn! Yes, the very industry that grows on regardless of recession or inflation in the economy. It has and it will make money till the end of time. But India has a completely different outlook towards pornography. In an age where the porn industry is a legitimate business in many countries across the world, it is very difficult, almost impossible to understand porn in India and while porn stars like Sunny Leone and Poonam Pandey have continued to post videos and images on twitter, the government actually regards it illegal. No kidding! In fact, you can actually be jailed if you are found making, producing or in possession of porn! But c’mon, everyone watches porn! Some of them even do it while they attend legislative meetings or parliamentary sessions in the country! But the idea that porn leads to sexual violence is the actual basis of this proposal. That’s like saying ‘water causes floods’!
5. Advertising Alcohol
This is probably one of the oldest bans in this list. In India, advertising alcoholic beverages has been considered illegal since the late 1990’s. In fact, many states across the country like Gujrat, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram have taken a step ahead and strictly prohibited the consumption of alcohol all together. But liquor companies find alternatives to convey their brand names to the consumers. One such alternative is Surrogate Advertising, wherein the liquor companies promote their labels by advertising numerous brand extensions like mineral water, soda, CD’s, airline and even a cricket team! It is said that India consumes one–fifth of the total alcohol produced in the world, and being the largest whisky market in the world, the liquor companies are cleverly trying to dodge the ban by finding loopholes in the laws to advertise their brands. Although some of the surrogate ads have come under fire in the past, the laws are only getting stricter.
6. Dancing in Bars
Apparently this ban has to do with women dancing in bars. If you are a woman and are caught dancing in a dance bar in India, you could be fined a minimum of Rs. 1 lac ($100,000) and could end up spending three years in jail. (Dance bars in India refer to places of adult entertainment) It is believed that these bars are epicenters of prostitution and thus in a measure to curb it, (Ah yes did you know prostitution is illegal in India too!) the government has passed a bill to cancel the licenses of all dance bars in Maharashtra and the move is slowly shifting to other states as well. Who knew dancing could cause so much trouble!
India joins the list with many other nations across the world for laws against LGBT’s. Homosexuality rights have been a hot topic around the world, and many countries like France, Brazil, Denmark, Ireland and recently USA, have come forward and showed their support by legalizing it. However, India remains glued to its cultural norms and refuses to recognize homosexuality as a sexual orientation, under Section 377 of the Indian constitution. According to the government, being gay is a ‘disease’ and there has to be someone to put a stop to it. In fact, India had uplifted this ban in the year 2009, but the Supreme Court recently reinstated it in the year 2013, delivering a cruel blow to the basic rights of thousands of homosexuals throughout the country. Strong protests were witnessed throughout the country following the ban. Surprisingly, the Hindu and Vedic texts have mentions and descriptions of saints, demigods, and even the Supreme Lord transcending gender norms and manifesting multiple combinations of sex. Even the Kamasutra, the ancient Indian science of love-making, talks about same-sex feelings. But same sex remains a taboo in India despite clear instances of it being mentioned in India’s history and mythology .
8. Parties With Foreign National as Invitees
Dancing, booze, lingerie and now parties! The list doesn’t get any sadder than this. The Karnataka State Government has recently barred party organizers from inviting people with a foreign nationality to parties, unless granted permission by the government. The increasing number of crimes against foreign nationals in India has become a matter of serious concern and thus the Government decided to prohibit inviting them to social gatherings without prior permit. And even if you manage to invite Rihanna, Bieber or One Direction to your party!, (well, kudos to you!), but you will have to provide details of all foreign invitees to the police beforehand and allow the authorities to film them the entire time they are at your party! As strange as it sounds, there have been many proposals to revert the said ban, but the Government just loves killing fun!
9. Foie Gras
Kicking the French delicacy off the menu, India has become the first country to ban the import of foie gras after an animal activist group from London protested that the method used for producing the duck liver delicacy was cruel. They also argue that they wanted the ban because big restaurants had been promoting the use of foie gras as fancy across the country! Being fancy can be a crime! Sorry foie gras. Countries like Israel, Germany, England and the state of California have already banned the production of foie gras, but India is the first to put an end to its import.
10. Fifty Shades of Grey (The Movie)
While people who’ve seen the movie accept that it, well, sucks. Weirdly enough, the movie was banned by the Censor Board of India from screening across theatres in the country on accounts of nudity, obscenity and vulgarity. Even if it had been given a green signal for release, it would have still sucked, since the edited version submitted to the Censor Board, had cut out all inappropriate scenes, which, in fact, was the whole point and plot of the movie! But even after all the important scenes had been deleted from the movie, the censors still found it vaguely erotic and unsuitable for the culture-driven Indian audience!