Protestors gathered on Kochi’s Marine Drive to kiss, hug and reclaim their space a day after the Shiv Sena moral policed couples there by assaulting them with canes. Several protestors were from the “kiss of love” campaign held in 2014 at the same spot. Artists, writers and activists gathered on the popular promenade, singing, painting and performing street plays. The call to protest was made on Facebook.
The post read, “It is time we re-invigorate our struggle against patriarchy in general and moral policing in particular in [a] more forceful and resolute way.” The protestors added that sexual harassment was the direct consequence of such a “moralising undercurrent”, using the widespread molestation of women in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve as an example. “Moral policing is a warning to the oppressed gender and movements fighting for their cause, which if not taken seriously leads to serious sexual violence like honour killing, rape, mass molestation,” the post added.
Activists from various other organisations, including People Against Fascism the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, and Kalakakshi participated as well. Oraali, an alternative folk rock band from Thrissur staged a protest performance.
Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena were also present, marching and shouting while the protestors kissed, laughed and performed their pieces, The Hindu reported. Commissioner of Police MP Dinesh said the police would not intervene as long as the protests were peaceful.
The state unit of the Shiv Sena suspended the party members who had attacked the couple on Wednedsay. The matter was also brought up in the Kerala Assemby, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying the government would not tolerate moral policing and that the police had been lax.
On Wednesday, Shiv Sena activists had chased away couples with sticks and physically assaulted them, witnesses said. The party memebers said their action was meant to end “romancing under umbrellas” as a part of their initiative “to stop sexual violence”, and the police did not stop them. The incident and the police inaction were condemned by both the Congress and the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist).