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Moral Policing: The Skewed Morality

The deep-rooted ideology of protecting the Indian culture from any kind of western influence is the very incitement leading to the intolerance and discrimination in these advancing times towards sexual minorities. The brisk expansion in the number of vigilante groups creating so- called awareness about their twisted definitions of obscenity has led to the deprival of humanity in Indian society.

Harassment, Social Neglection, and Threat of Violence are just a few ways how the groups claiming to maintain moral code harm the LGBT+ community. They suffer from social, economic, and cultural injustices owing to the lack of legal recognition and social acceptance. The fact that they still have to fight for their freedom is deeply upsetting and set us backward. The current research paper will discuss the various facets of discrimination despite the changing times.

Ground Realities
The colonial legislation deeming homosexuality illegal was struck down by the laudable judgment pronounced by the Supreme Court in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India1, with a unanimous ruling, declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 unconstitutional to the extent of same-sex relationships. This was a much needed and pivotal moment for the queer people but the pathologizing of the LGBT+ took the country by the whirlwind and vigilante groups began coming up with ways to moralize the deemed sinners.

Moral Policing is an umbrella term for all the vigilante groups acting for establishing a code of morality targeting those who have done something immoral or against the Indian culture as per their own ideologies. The violent actions of these groups such as vandalization, assault, harassment, defamation, threats, etc. upset the peaceful existence in the society.

Despite the decriminalization, offensive remarks and slurs are thrown around under the pretence of some unharmful banter or joke. They are not allowed to be themselves except in the confinement of their houses. Their sexuality is being frowned upon, discarded, discriminated against, and treated as a disease labelled as obscenity in society which needs to be eradicated.

The aspect of obscenity is quite vague and ambiguous because of which every individual interprets it with his own imagination and ethics. The mayhem ensues when all the people come up with varied criteria for the same word. Ignorance is bliss till it harms someone and the perceptions of the masses leading it left everyone offended. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the application of the obscenity-related provisions to be correctly understood and applied with the aim to promote public decency and morality but its execution of it is far from just and fair.

Still, the sole blame could not be laid on the wordings of the provision but also on the negligence shown by the judiciary times and again as to when an act is considered to fall under the purview of the term. Yet, incidents have happened with no repercussions to the offenders citing the dormant moral reasons. A well-known professor at Aligarh Muslim University was framed and outed by his colleagues when he was walking home with his male friend.

The University suspended him for engaging in homosexual behavior deemed immoral as per the university's guidelines. The incident shows the mindsets of people toward the LGBT+ community. The appreciable effect of the landmark case reduces to nothing if these communities are legally recognized but morally and psychologically remain pathological.

The judgments pertinent to moral policing merely act as an advisory opinion of the court asking for the government or vigilante groups or law enforcement agencies to discourage such activities and no action is taken unless the chaos reaches the level of a crime. Government officials, in the past, have released multiple offensive statements against the LGBT+ community that expecting them to bring about a change is delusional.

Moral Policing can be manifested in numerous ways, some of which are enunciated below:
  • Mob Lynching:
    Under the pretext of achieving justice and delivering punishment to the alleged offender, a group of people, aka mob, inflicts physical, mental torture, and corporal mutilation upon that person to set an example for the society.
  • Cultural Terrorism:
    Constitutional Squads like Anti Romeo Squads impose physical violence in the society to inculcate their standards of religious beliefs.
  • Honour Killing:
    The ludicrous and infamous practice of taking a person's life based on the reason that the person is influenced by the western culture and supposed by the killers to have a negative impact on their so-set morals.
  • Cow Vigilantism:
    The sad reality of lynching is not unheard of. The vigilantes kill a person who they suspect to be consuming beef products deeming that to be a serious threat to the nation.

The upsetting way these groups exercise their unrestricted power to the extent of curtailing someone's fundamental rights and even taking someone's life is terrorizing to live with. The recent trends of rubbing black ink on someone's face, shaving their head, tearing their clothes, publicly beating them, harassing them, and much more shows the extinct humanity of the Indian Society.

The horrid phase of Moral Policing could be overcome in some ways stated below:
  • Education:
    Educating the youth about the various facets of sexuality rather than making it a cold topic would help them personally too. Telling people about their individual rights needs to be more stressed out. The schools should not inculcate negative behavior in students towards the LGBT+ community.
  • Police Officials:
    Police officials should be trained to keep a check on the illegal moral policing taking place. The Kerala Police took an initiative in this regard by asking them to not cut their hair or remove wristbands. They should not indulge in discriminatory practices.
  • Awareness regarding Vigilante Groups:
    Parents should make their kids aware of not communicating with these groups as they do not come from an educated background. Children must know that they should know about the harmful activities of these groups and how their illegal acts can be punished.
  • Spreading the facts:
    The misleading information should be curtailed, and facts should be presented to society. Their mindset should be comprehended and the supporters of it should be told about the unlawful activities they are supporting and their consequences.

Instances of Moral Policing
  • The usage of loudspeakers during Azaan has been targeted by the right-wing group threatening to intensify their campaigns provoking people to cite Hindu religious scripts and songs has resulted in communal clashes. The chief minister of Karnataka proposed peace meetings to harmoniously resolve the matter.
  • In a certain ruling of the Kerala High Court, a group of men physically violated a man because he was with a woman who belongs to a different community. The Court categorized such incidents of moral policing under the bracket of mental depravity under which murder, rape, and dacoity are grouped. The Court completely overlooked the fact that difference in the community was a factor owing to the occurrence of violence.
  • In the areas of coastal Karnataka, a group stopped a vehicle and asked for the names of the couple. Upon discovering that they belong to different communities, the Muslim guy was physically assaulted, and expletives were hurled at the couple.
  • A woman and her son, who were eating inside the car, at a busy highway junction in Kollam District of Kerala were accused of immoral activities, pulled out of their vehicle, and brutally assaulted by a local resident.
  • Five members of Bajrang Dal questioned the women inside the halted car at the Surathkal check post for being in the company of Muslims and then manhandled them with accusations of harassment.

Conclusion & Remarks:
Moral Policing has become a way to shelter your minor crimes till they reach a level when the court takes cognizance of the so-actual crime. The instances show how people hate something to such an extent, they are preaching to others to commit violence for that. In no way, did any of those people deserve or even would have thought that talking to another person could put lives at risk.

The trend of ignoring the ongoing hate and communal violence between both the Government and the Judiciary shows the ignorance of the system leading the society to doom. Worse comes to the people of the LGBT+ community had to suffer just because of their sexual orientation.

These vigilante groups are the ones running the moral codes of the society and the long-established ethics of the culture. Mere awareness will not do any good now, legislation must be created on it. The lack of everything, and above all humanity in the society will lead to the suffocation of the future, just because the rigid twisted standards of morals did not change with the changing times.

  • (2018) 10 SCC 1.
  • Hindustan Times, available: (published on April 23, 2022).
  • The Telegraph, available at: (published on March 28, 2022).
  • The Indian Express, available at: (published on April 6, 2022).
  • The Indian Express, available at: (published on September 2, 2021).
  • The Indian Express, available at: (published on September 29, 2002).

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