Kerala, India's "Kiss Of Love" Campaign Wants Kissing In Public To Finally Be Accepted

You wouldn't think a kiss on the cheek in public could spark violent reactions and divide a society, but that's exactly what's happening in India. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, a "Kiss of Love" campaign has taken the city Kochi by storm as kissing activists clashed with police at a march against what they call "moral policing" by right-wing groups on Nov. 2.

The movement started in response to a right-wing youth group vandalizing a cafe in late October after hearing reports that couples were kissing in there. Widespread outrage quickly ensued, and CNN reported that within a week of its conception, #kissoflove went viral online, and the campaign's Facebook page has since garnered more than 90,000 likes.

If it all seems a little blown out of proportion, keep in mind that India still has a relatively conservative society. Remember the response to Richard Gere (in)famously kissing Shilpa Shetty on stage at a 2007 AIDS awareness rally in New Delhi? People burnt posters of both celebrities in protest, and the anger was so real that it prompted a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Gere and Shetty, the Celebrity Big Brother winner, stating that the kiss "transgressed all limits of vulgarity."

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CNN interviewed a protester from the pro-religious camp about the kissing march, who said:

This protest is totally against our culture. This should not be allowed. These things should be done in one's own house.

An organizer of the event, 20-year-old Arham Muhammad, told Al Jazeera that right-wing groups were increasingly attacking young couples on the streets who were holding hands. He added,

The point that we are trying to make is that we have freedom to express our love within the bounds of our legal system. Culture is not a constant, it’s a variable. We should not live in the dark ages.

In fine 21st-century form, the movement was conceived and put together mostly by younger people over social media. The campaign described itself on Facebook as "a group of young bloods" out to prove that kissing is "the symbol of love." Many posted pictures of themselves kissing their loved ones in support.

According to a Hindustan Times report, although the march was plagued by a strong police presence — over 1,000 deployed — and activists were rounded up and taken into preventative custody just as it began, activists said that it nevertheless sent a strong message to the moral police.

If you've had some kind of deja vu while reading this, it's probably because the fight to express one's self takes different forms in different cultures, but it is all ultimately a similar struggle for the freedom of expression. Think gay marriage in the U.S., for example, though thankfully (and finally), the sentiment seems to be riding on a definite wave of change.

Images: Getty Images; Kiss Of Love/Facebook (2)