Monday, February 15, 2010

Pre-Marital Sex and Freedom of Speech

Pre-Marital Sex and Freedom of Speech
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The five year old statement of Tamil film actress Kushboo on premarital sex and virginity after making rounds in lower courts and Madras High Court has reached the Supreme Court of India.

The actress’s appeal on January 21, 2010 to the Supreme Court, challenging the defamation complaints filed against her in various places in Tamil Nadu has invited the wrath of the Chief Justice K.G Balakrishnan who is hearing this case.

Hearing this case as whisper of obscenity and against Indian culture, Chief Justice observed; ‘it is a wide statement, slightly difficult to digest.’ The CJI called for production of the full transcript of the actress’s statement for considering this case and posted it for future hearing.

The aging siren of Tamil cinema found herself in the eye of the storm in 2005 for her opinions favoring pre-marital sex. She stated in an interview to a magazine; ‘our society should liberate itself from such ideas that brides should all be virgins at the time of marriage. No educated man will expect his bride to be virgin at the time of marriage. But when indulging in pre-marital sex, the girl should guard herself against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.’

This statement stirred a hornet’s nest in Tamil Nadu. As many as 23 defamation complaints were filed against the actress and the Madras High Court ordered them to be bunched together for its speedy trial. The actress challenged this in the Supreme Court.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s judgment on this issue, the fact remains that Kushboo’s statement focuses on few societal issues, particularly those related to gender, and certain developments that are taking place that are bringing out the hard realities of the Indian society.

There is no denying the fact that under the onslaught of the new forms of media, and sweeping societal and life style changes, the psychological distance between childhood and adulthood is shrinking in our country.

Many youngsters at an unbelievable age are indulging into sexual experimentation playing out the adult fantasies in grown up ways. This could be illustrated pointing out a news report that emanated from one of India’s prosperous state Gujarat. A shocking news, revealed that many young girls are queuing up before the clandestine medical clinics for hymenoplasty, the surgical procedure that restore their virtue intact in the eyes of their future husbands.

The trend for the restoration of woman's technical virginity has started some eight years ago in Gujarat, but now is fast catching up in other parts of India. Just like sex determination clinics that operate secretly, the clinics doing hymenoplasty is also secretly mushrooming in the big cities of the country.

The price for the restoration of the hymen is about Rs.20, 000 ($500) and doctors describe the surgery as simple and not too painful that’s made comfortable in the ambiance of corporate clinics.

Chastity is cherished value in the Indian society and girls turn up to such clinics with the sole intention of keeping their future husbands happy that they are virgins.

The plastic surgeons who are making a killing out of this thought out fancy says, there were only few such cases earlier. Mostly those who use to come before were inquisitive youngsters wanting to know the details of such surgery but never volunteered for the same. The trend has changed now. Of late hymenoplasty surgeries are on the rise.

It seems the new age woman is warming up with the idea of an arranged marriage, but not before she has had her fill of fun and flings. The case history of hymenoplasty ranges from those who want to get married but did not like their husband to know they had premarital sex. Others want their future husbands to tell their parents that their daughter in law is a virgin.

Astonishingly, it is not just young women from India who are going for such procedure; Indian girls settled abroad too are longing for it because the Indian value system remains intact in their households. Moreover compared to the western countries, such surgeries are cheap in India.

In India many plastic surgeons are cashing on this trend. However, there are some alarming signals coming out of this fascination. It looks, this is going the sex selection way where only the doctors are flourishing.

The doctors instead of educating the society spreading information about sex are making a killing out of it. Their conspiracy of silence is also providing Indian patriarchal set-up a more conducive environment to retain the old mindsets.

Those involved in such activity scoff of the theory that they are not acting responsibly. They feel this is a transitory phase and the day is not far off when the claims of marring a virgin, will be the box news in a newspapers.

Now if we link this news to the Khusboo’s statement, then we can draw our own conclusions. What the actress did was to take a liberal stand on a subject that’s kept in wraps. She spoke her mind about the changing value system that is taking place in our society.

However, there are some people who feel offended about such ideas and have raised the voice of protest against the actress. Can’t this be construed as gagging of the freedom of speech and putting restrictions on airing personal views?

There is another angle to Khusboo’s episode. Her statement provided fodder to the cultural police in the country. Such people prey on this sort of things to occur and raise voice of protest to gain mileage and popularity. They are joined by those who are entrenched in the old value system and take this as personal offence.

Unfortunately, such people find strong political backing and do every possible thing to stop liberal voices to gain an upper hand. It is hoped that with changing times people will learn to adopt themselves to hard realities and do not make fuss over such statements.

This brings to a larger question where parents are struggling to strike the right balance between being relaxed, being liberal and still others drawing a line on such issues. Again these are personal choices and can not be generalized. However, when one has to choose between light and darkness, black and white, true and false, right and wrong, the choices are limited.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based on Chennai. He can be contacted at

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