Recently, while watching movies I made the startling discovery that shots of a naked infant were considered an acceptable practice as late as the early 2000s. I had expected a higher degree of reasonable care in this context at least from parallel cinema but I was disappointed. I recently read in an article that while Indian filmmakers are comfortable in shooting infants naked while nude adults on-screen are considered blasphemous even today by certain sections of the society while their foreign counterparts are far more comfortable in doing the reverse. Ironic isn’t it?
Till the last millennium the grounds available under the Cinematograph Act,1952 and Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 for censoring content on-screen were strictly in compliance with Article 19 (2) of the Constitution namely; sovereignty and integrity of the state, security of the state, friendly relations with the foreign states, public order, decency or morality, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offense. Even public morality got an upper hand over privacy. Considering the fundamental purpose of a Constitution and the period during which it was drafted it would be unfair to lay the blame on the draftsmen entirely. It is more reasonable to ponder over the fact that neither the aforementioned laws nor any other law addressed the issue of naked infants being shown on the screen with impunity for half a decade since the Constitution came into force. Eventually, the Information Technology Act 2000 and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 addressed the lacuna and provided a remedy.
Though the necessity of a legal regime to secure the interests of the general public of the society can never be questioned but it is pertinent to note the underlying issues here are that of privacy and consent. As a society, we still don’t seem to accord privacy to an infant and note that what makes an infant particularly vulnerable is his/her inability to give consent. While the debate on parents putting their toddler’s pictures on social media is becoming center stage our country’s public discourse is oblivious to the development. As of now, I would have to be content with the legal framework in place to protect children in some way. I know previously released content consisting of images of naked infants must have been widely distributed by now by many just enjoy movies for their sake alone. However, I would sleep better if someone could develop an ingenious device to blackout those scenes forever.