Is public display of affection allowed in India?

If you are coming to India from the States or Europe, you are in for a shock. Unlike the West, we Indians are not allowed to show affection at least in public. In fact, there’s a law that prevents obscenity in the open. The “Indian Penal Code Section” 294 (a) states: Whoever, to the annoyance of others does any obscene act in any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.

Basically what’s happening is that touch is somehow perceived as interlinked with sex in India? For example, we Indians think that mouth-to-mouth kissing is a western concept and therefore not really something that we should be doing in public. But many of us do not know the origins of kissing were first mentioned in the Mahabharata. Historians have found the earliest references to the practice of lip kissing in the Mahabharata dated 1500 B.C. and the reference continued with the Kama Sutra with many descriptive verities of kissing and having sex. Another interesting point is that the conquering armies of Alexander and his army learnt the art of kissing from the Indians. This doesn’t mean Indians were the first to invent kissing; it simply means that it was first mentioned in texts where people appeared to be kissing.

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Funny thing is that if you have been to India before, you probably have seen two men holding hands. This doesn’t mean they are gay, they just happen to be friends. But on the other hand if a boy and a girl hold hands in public – this is frowned upon. Boys do not shy away from showing this intimacy. However, show of affection and intimacy between men and women is frowned upon throughout India.

So what is allowed and not allowed

Kissing in public

Kissing may be the universal language of love but kissing on the lips is a definitely a no go area in India. This is dangerous territory. However, an innocent goodbye kiss at the International airport would probably be fine but not at the railway station while smooching at a restaurant is definitely not a good idea.

Holding hands

Holding hands in most areas of India would be acceptable. It may seem strange but even men do it (this might seem bizarre to the western eye but there is nothing sexual about it).  If you wanted to hold hands or wanted to put your arms around your partner’s shoulders, feel free to do so as that would be fine and is not a public offence.

Hugging

Hugging is quite a new concept in India different to the traditional Namaste where the hands are folded together and the head is bowed. I see more and more people hugging to show affection. There’s even a saint called, “Mata Amritanandamayi Devi” from Kerala popularly known as Amma, the hugging saint. Hugging is acceptable.

This is certainly one of the many paradoxes of India. In a country where rape is common, groping is considered almost acceptable, there are erotic and sensuous sculptures on temples expressing love in its unique forms, men peeing on the side of the road, street animals openly copulating – human intimacy is a curious contradiction. Here’s more on how to stay safe in India.

Hope this article was useful and if you have any questions relating to your travels to India, you can ask here or send me a message.

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25 thoughts on “Is public display of affection allowed in India?”

  1. Hi shalu Sharma,

    Great information indeed!
    I think, Holding hand in public is not bad thing but lip kissing is public is bad because it is not think that we should do in public. every culture has it’s own. but This is also our culture that you described in this post. because I am from Pakistan and in According to Pakistani culture, Lip kissing is bad thing.

    any way thanks shalu for sharing such great information.
    Regards:
    Areesha Noor!

    Reply
  2. Hi Shalu Mam
    First off all, Your blog new design is quite cool.
    Public Display of affection is nothing but only the wrong mentality of people. Holding hands in public is not a crime and never a bad thing. I agree that things like kissing etc must be avoided in public. But it all depends on the thinking of every individual. Every Single person should follow his conscience.

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    • Thank you Utsav. I am glad you liked the new design. I agree with you. Some decency should be maintained but its all down to the individual as how they wish to exercise their conscience. Thanks for your comments.

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  3. We have our very own culture and it is good that we are proud of it. This post should help visitors to know what they can expect and do in public without any problems…

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  4. Hi Shalu Mam,

    Public display of affection is not illegal yet it really not seems good. when we visit foreign countries, it is usual for the people doing such things. But in India, we still value our cultures and we should not show our personal life in public. You always write blogs on general issues. Can you also write on some other topics?

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  5. Hi Shalu
    Thanks for your awesome blog. I truly enjoy it. India is a beautiful country, rich in culture and tradition, but it appears that perhaps the restraint of behaviour, for example the open display of affection, may actually be a contributory factor to the high incidence of rape and molestation the country endures.
    From a psychological perspective, the brain is always curious about that which is not explored, or forbidden, its always wanting an experience.
    There is hardly anything untoward with openingly hugging and kissing , every human has an innate need to love n be loved, yes sexual activity in public is something of a different nature.
    As an NRI, i recommend the country works on educating perpertraters on the fact that rape is a heinous crime. It doesnot give a good impression when one the one hand we boast about culture, yet stats show we dont respect woman and their rights.

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  6. hi mam!!

    I just land on your blog through google, i read many posts of your blog and i found is very informative!
    I recommended your blog to everyone on the Blogging World!!!

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  7. This is the irony of India. As per constitution of India, kissing is allowed in public but who cares. If someone kisses in pubic then I am sure he would be belted by the crowd.

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  8. PDA is generally considered bad in small cities if India. In big cities it may be okay but that too to some extent only. Really a very informative piece of writing for all the foreigners Shalu ma’am! Keep it up!

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  9. I will be arriving at Mumbai airport and met by a close friend I have not seen in more than 30 years. I am female and he is male. Is hugging hello at the airport OK?

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  10. Hi Shalu,
    We Indians are so advanced because of not publicly displaying such kinds of affection as our focus is on a deeper form of love .

    What I feel is that public display of physical affection like hugging, kissing etc creates desires in young minds. In the west due to it being so common, youngsters are not protected and young girls are even getting pregnant during school years. Our youth needs to protected as it is said in our Dharma, that one should follow celibacy (Brahmacharya ) during their educational years as it help them to concentrate. If we have such public display which create the desire of sexual intimacy in our youth, their mind get destabilized and that will bring unrighteousness in society. Also in subtle it attract negative energies as love is depend on physical appearance.

    Also you mentioned an important the point about rape which is becoming common in India. I felt it is because of lack of Dharma education. Our education system doesn’t teach how to practice self control, moral values as education become the business and on top of Bollywood movies display of love ,clash with our common man culture.​

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    • We Indians are so advanced – Pride. Makes me vomit. You are not from heaven. Let someone else say it instead you are bragging about yourself.

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  11. This was really helpful. Citizens of countries like USA and UK do seem to take the public display of affection rather lightly. Thus, there are chances that they get caught in legal matters due to this in India. Keep coming with these posts.

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    • Well said. Parents allow kids to watch rated R or A circle songs…half naked women dancing in movies and they talk about how great is Indian culture, we are pure. Eye is the entry point for sexual immorality. Why so many rapes in India? Because of adult rated songs in movies. Public affection is banned. How messed up.

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  12. In my young age or when I was kid I never got hug or seen people hugging and kissing. I am not talking about mouth to mouth. This was soooooo bad. It will impact psychologically and emotionally the person. I blame the culture, yes *Indian culture* . Well know for 10000 year old culture that we brag about. Not every culture is perfect but this is super bad when it comes to affection. I am not talking about sex or vulgarity in front of public or your own kids at home. I am talking about showing affection. Movies show half naked women dancing, groping in songs and kids are allowed to watch when parents don’t teach loving, hugging and kissing …you are all messed up in the head.

    *Affection with spouse*
    Demonstrate kindness, tenderness, and respect toward your spouse. Hug, kiss, and cuddle your spouse. Smile at him or her. Speak encouraging words to your spouse.

    *Understand why affection is important.*
    Realize that affection (which involves specific expressions that result in feelings of closeness, passion, and security) is a vital part of connecting with your spouse. Know that it’s natural as a human being to long for affection.

    *Examine your childhood memories.* Think about how your family of origin expressed – or didn’t express – affection. Consider how that made you feel.

    *Learn the affection language your spouse speaks.* Figure out if your spouse is a hand person (who appreciates practical ways of showing affection, such as working together on a shared project), a heart person (who appreciates ways of connecting emotionally, such as through speaking affirming words), or a head person (who enjoys sharing intellectual pursuits with you, such as reading or taking a class together). Then let your spouse which primary way of showing affection is most important to you. Work together to express affection to each other ways you each truly appreciate.

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  13. Thank you Shalu Sharma for the article. Seriously, Indian culture has a problem. I was born and raised in India until 25 years old. I moved to US 16 years ago. I had to learn a lot through my beautiful wife. I was not given affection at young age and it is messed up. I was like a robot. So many divorce these days because parents and culture didn’t teach how to respect women and being affectionate. Women is a gentler vessel, like a flower …treat her delicate, show love, affection, kindness, lay your life for her. It took me many years for me to learn. Men as a head of the household lead Godly way your family, be good example for your children, teach them being affectionate with wife in front of kids, treat her gentle, then they will respect you as a dad. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

    Reply

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