Kerala magazine challenges India’s breastfeeding taboo


Powered by article titled “Kerala magazine challenges India’s breastfeeding taboo” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st March 2018 21.01 Asia/Kolkata

March issue of Grihalakshmi magazine.
March issue of Grihalakshmi magazine, which interviews women about the criticism they attract if breastfeeding in public. Photograph: Grihalakshmi Magazine/Facebook

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. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).