A south Indian magazine has drawn both outrage and praise for the cover of its latest edition, which shows a woman breastfeeding her baby.
The March issue of Grihalakshmi, which is published in the state of Kerala, shows the poet and actor Gilu Joseph feeding a child with the headline, “Mums tell Kerala: don’t stare – we need to breastfeed”.
The article has interviews with several mothers on the difficulties they have encountered when trying to breastfeed in public in a country where the practice is still largely taboo.
Editors said the cover was inspired by the experience of a young mother, Amritha, whose husband, in January, published pictures on Facebook of her publicly breastfeeding. The images went viral and sparked intense debate.
Amritha, 23, told the magazine: “Even when I was in the hospital I had breastfed openly and so many people told me off for this. Some even said that if I fed my child without covering my breasts they would dry up very soon.”
Joseph, 27, said she had instantly agreed when asked to pose for the cover. “I thought, what would be wrong with me doing this?” she said. “I am proud of my body, so why not use it for a noble cause?”
Joseph is not married and the baby in the picture is not her own, both points that have drawn criticism on social media, although reaction to the cover has generally been positive. “I don’t believe in these sorts of taboos,” Joseph said. “I didn’t harm the kid in any way. I kept the baby close to my breast out of love.”
Joseph added said the point of the cover and the campaign was that “breastfeeding is a beautiful thing and you don’t have to be worried”.
Kerala has some of India’s best indicators for quality of life for women, with among the lowest national rates of child marriage and maternal mortality, and with high rates of female labour-force participation and literacy.
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