The Puritans of his time, British poet John Milton wrote, prohibited bear fighting, not for causing pain to the bear but for giving pleasure to the viewer. The upholders of public morality in contemporary India seem to spring from the same gene pool. Their latest contribution in the crusade to contain public morals from contamination is the strident demand to ban sale of the Condom pack, Crezendo, manufactured by the state owned Hindustan Latex, for containing a vibrating ring, which they allege is a sex toy. What astounds me is that leaders of all political parties, spanning a wide ideological spectrum, from militant right to extreme left have come out publicly in support of the demand.
This camaderie crossing party lines was visible on earlier ocasions. The closure of dance bars in Mumbai, the response to actress Khusboo's comments approving pre-marital sex, the controversy over Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty at a public venue, all drove home the point that Indian politicians speak in one voice, though with varying degrees of intensity. There is no point in blaming the political class for holding retrograde views. They only reflect the conservative values and mores prevailing in the society of which they are a part.
The challenge facing Indian liberals, men and women, is to transform the old and establish a new order wherein sexual freedom is an article of faith and sexual relations between consenting adults remain the sole concern of the people involved. A sexually open society can never be against Indian traditions. The civilisational heritage of India is of sexual openness and experimentation. Sexual repression was never its agenda. The erotic sculptures in Hindu temples, the serious study of Kama Shastra, the practice of Tantra which says union with the divine can achieved through sexual ecstasy, all prove that our civilsation was never prudish.
Somewhere along the line, attitudes changed and we began to associate sex with guilt and secrecy. Society imposed restrictions we meekly accepted. The regimentation of sexual behaviour gained legitimacy. The need of the time is to write the liberal testament on matters sexual. But we must ensure the freedom doesn't degenerate into licentiousness. To allow so, would be to play into the enemy's hands.