Our culture doesn’t back smoking by ladies: govt tells SC

A male driver who grew up watching his mother and grand mother smoke ‘bidi’ once said, “Women in villages only smoke when they have stomach problems, city women smoke because they want to be modern.”

Smoking by urban women can be compared to jeans or salwar kurta – the objection is not really to jeans and salwar kurta (which often cover more skin than some traditional clothing) or smoking (more common with rural women), but with what they symbolise.

So an unhealthy choice has been made into a symbol of rebellion, independence, modernity and westernization.

And of course approval from ‘Indian culture’ is a logical explanation for banning or permitting something, specially for Indian women. 🙄

Our culture doesn’t back smoking by women: govt tells SC

“Indian tradition doesn’t permit a lady to smoke,” Shekhar said, adding that the notification would be brought into effect after the HC refused to grant a stay on UTV’s petition that indirectly sought to pre-empt the government move.

UTV had moved the HC against I&B ministry’s August 2 letter to the Censor Board to advise filmmakers to display anti-smoking messages during the screening of the movie. On the basis of the same letter, the government is issuing a notification, Shekhar told the SC.


Are we really watching a slow talibanization of India?

I hope we are watching a more visible challenging of such attempts.


35 thoughts on “Our culture doesn’t back smoking by ladies: govt tells SC

  1. Now smoking too is a gender issue. I guess the advocate is fine with men dying with lung cancer but he wants to save the women. How generous of him.
    Also, I could never understand how blurring a cigarette on screen would stop me from buying a cigarette. I find it pretty dumb.


    • LOL! I agree I would be psychologically scarred to watch a woman light up on the screen. Can we ever forget a panty-less Sharon Stone lighting up during her interrogation in Basic Instinct? Can we forget the way she cocks her neck and says ‘so arrest me’? How disturbed I was…chi! chi!

      But I’m totally cool about our Indian heroine when she jiggles her cleavage and navel and butt in ‘revealing clothes’, while mouthing vulgar ‘item numbers’, amidst (presumbaly) drunken men who want to have a go at her. Yeah…that’s in line with ‘indian culture’. It has a very positive effect on my mind.


  2. First, words are powerful. Can we please ban the word “lady” until we are talking about a female member of the British aristocracy? Even in common usage, a “lady” is a particular kind of woman, the kind of woman that the power structure deems “good.” It is a word used to remind a woman to keep in her place. It is meant to rob a woman of her power, to remind her to be nice. It is not being polite, it is condescending, insulting.
    Second, I find the statement, “Our culture doesn’t back smoking by ladies” to be very interesting. Are they implying that the culture does back smoking by gentlemen (or men in general)? And if it does, is that a good thing? Better they just say, “Our culture doesn’t back smoking” or at least “Our culture shouldn’t back smoking.”
    I rarely share my fears because I believe in positive action, not fears, but I fear not only the talibanization of India, but of America, as well. I hope my sisters in India are following the conservatives’ War on Women in the USA. They are trying very hard to roll back our hard-fought and hard-won victories. If the Republicans take over the government in the November elections, I fear that America will turn into a hell for women. And Canada and Britain will follow. And the terrorists will have won. This is not acceptable. We need to stand up and with one voice say NO.


  3. I find it distracting that everytime a smoking scene comes up, the warning sign will come as well.. I mean you gave that message before the movie starts, why give it on screen when the movie is going on as well? We have stopped commercialized advertising of tobacco products, cigarette packs have the warning labels with the graphic imagery as well.. It has already been made clear enough that smoking is harmful. Yet people choose to do so, but by their own account. They have chosen to do this on themselves, so let them deal with it.

    Ergo, if a man is allowed to choose it, a woman should be as well. I don’t how gender comes in this? So our culture doesn’t back smoking by ladies? shouldn’t it be not backing just smoking? And this is not just a matter of smoking, but drinking, or clothing and other things.. It is a matter of independence. Independence to make the same choices a man can make. Whether they work out in they way that harms the chooser (such as possible cancer and after effects including death). It is a consequence of the choice the person made and as an independent citizen he or she acknowledges the hazards introduced to the body because of said choice.

    Is it a wrong choice? By all means, it is a form of slow poisoning one self.. But then it should be the same for men and women.


    • Men of Mr Shekhar’s ilk do not believe women have the capacity to make informed decisions about their own well-being.

      They believe women are perverse, child-like creatures who don’t know what’s good for them and their son-producing wombs.

      They have to be forced to “be good”, because their natural tendency is to be lascivious, pleasure-seeking harlots.

      Right Mr Shekhar?


  4. I don’t advocate smoking, in fact, i’m allergic to cigarette smoke and i hate the smell… but…. “Indian tradition doesn’t permit a lady to smoke,”????

    So screw Indian tradition.


  5. No, we are not witnessing a Talibanisation of India. We are simply witnessing a clash of civilisations, where conservatives are egged on at the moderates and liberals. I am sure with time, passing of generations and better socio-economic prospects, such idle moralism will relegated where they belong and we’ll see the country getting more progressive.
    And frankly, smoking is an unhealthy and stupid form of rebellion or glamour, for both men and women. Not to mention, it makes breath stink.


    • //And frankly, smoking is an unhealthy and stupid form of rebellion or glamour, for both men and women. Not to mention, it makes breath stink.// Absolutely agree.

      And yet we have made it a symbol of something like modernity and rebellion – that might be seen as positive by some :\


      • Ironically, in the “modern west” (I quote that because I don’t agree that the west is particularly “modern”) that people are emulating with smoking, it’s been a long time since smoking was considered “modern” or “rebellion” or “cool”, to the contrary, today it’s seen as pathethic and a clear sign of a lack of class and poor impulse-control. Smoking today, in Europe, is strongly associated with the lowest classes, the least educated, the least healthy, the poorest.

        I wonder if Indians who take up smoking to appear “modern”, are aware that at this point, if they’re emulating anyone, they’re emulating a unhealthy, uneducated, overweight european from a low social class and with poor impulse-control. For example, in USA 34% of those making less than $6000/year smoke, while only 9% of those making above $100K/year do the same.


    • I agree…a few decades earlier we did not have many signs banning women from wearing “indecent” dresses or banning women from smoking or partying…this was because such bans were implicit and most women used to toe the “traditional” line anyway (as they had very few options). Now more and more women are going against the erstwhile “acceptable” mode of behavior. All these signs that we see nowadays are desperate attempts by the powers-that-be to somehow hold on to the days gone by. I would like to think that their attempts are doomed to failure. As someone once quoted “Nothing on earth can stop the force of an idea whose time has come”. But even if our society attains a semblance of gender equality in the distant future, it will still be an ongoing fight every day. As someone else said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.


      • @ Satish
        That. Not just women, but even men in the past ‘toed the line’. They would study in the schools and colleges of their hometown, then replace their parents in the family job or business, marry a woman chosen by the parents, ‘settle down’ with their parents and submit to the ageism and other hierarchies of the social setup. It is only after the economic boom of the 90s that started this whole trend of people travelling to other cities for education, jobs, dating or at least, getting to have their personal choices in who they want to marry. These changes have brought a kind of panic among the parental generation of yesteryears, who find these freedoms against their traditional ‘values’ (ones based on social control and feudal hierarchy, rather than individual liberty and personal happiness).
        The phrase, “my father decided who I should be married to and I never questioned his decision” is reflected upon with pride by some of the 70s and 80s generation of people. Sometime back, a ‘feminist’ member here actually complained about how to ‘youth of today have no morals’. You think they could at least have avoided come-uppance like that?


    • Maya,
      If a woman is an adult, she has all rights to smoke. Remember, she can choose the Prime Minister? Surely, she can choose whether to stick a cigarette in her mouth or not?
      A kid is a minor. I am sure you are kidding when you are comparing both?
      Also, people who get carried away by what they see in a movie need medical help. Blurring objects will definitely won’t help. Do you think blurring an item number can reduce the cases of molestation?


      • if grown up people had better capablity to decide whats wrong or right then they wouldnt be smoking in first place, would they?.
        Secondly i dont believe that a person would suddenly develop intelligence affter 18, i think childrens above age of 10 are smart enough in comparision to adults..


        • No they won’t but that does not give one adult the right to dictate terms to another. And don’t you find it a bit stupid to stop people from smoking after providing them a cigarette? Won’t it be much simpler to close the factories that manufacture them?
          It is not about developing intelligence but about laws. If you do not want 10 years old to smoke, stop producing cigarettes.
          And we are way off the topic here.


        • There’s two ways to answer this. First, there’s a difference between right and wrong, and wise and unwise. Smoking in a manner that doesn’t harm others isn’t *wise* (assuming you care about your health), but I’m not sure it’s ethically wrong. It’s a philosophical question whether it is ethically wrong to harm your own body.

          Second, for freedom to mean anything, it *MUST* include the freedom to do silly, stupid and unwise things. Afterall even in the most repressive dictatorship, it is allowed to do things that those in charge feel are wise.

          For the same reason, freedom of speech means freedom to say stupid, unpopular and disliked things. (it’s allowed -everywhere- to say things which are popular and liked) The test for if a government respects freedom of speech, is how it treats those people who say things the government does *not* like.

          It’s not wise to drink alcohol every day, to smoke cigarettes, to eat hamburgers at McDonalds every day or to have unprotected sex with strangers.

          Nevertheless, the freedom to make my own choices, has tremendous value to me. I want to decide for myself what I eat, for example, even though that freedom comes with the risk that I may become sick or even die prematurely if I choose the wrong things.


    • Maya, your argument does not make sense. Kids are not treated the same as adults because they are not considered to have the physical / emotional maturity to understand the consequences of their actions or to face them. That’s why it’s not considered wrong for men / women to be in a sexual relationship with each other, but it’s considered heinous for men / women to be in a sexual relationship with a kid.

      The point here is not about smoking. The point here is about how a woman who smokes is pinpointed more than a man who smokes…all in the name of some vague “culture”. Whenever I hear words like “culture”, “tradition”, “heritage” etc, I immediately realize that they are just lame excuses for a section of the population to impose their outdated views on other sections of the population.


      • @ Satish
        Some of these cultural excuses are actually a more modern phenomenon. For example, the kind of dress codes that culturalists prescribe for women generally don’t have a cultural base, at least not in the land where they are prescribed.
        Take the recent imposition of dress code on Guwahati College for example. The principal, Pranab Sandilya mandated salwaar kameez for the students, which is actually an alien dress code in the Assamese culture. The Assamese traditional dress is a mekhla chador, which is quite a skin show fest, if you think of it. Also, the concept of ‘body shame’ which he is trying to impose on women is another alien bullcrap, given that the native Assamese people, the Tai Axoms, not only celebrate female sexuality in a festival but even have a courtship/mating dance rituals (~ Mukoli Bihu). Which is perhaps why, unlike the rest of India where such dress codes have been tactitly accepted, the media and people of Assam are protesting his decision.
        Whose culture are they selling? –> http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120824/jsp/frontpage/story_15890797.jsp


    • IMHO, it is not moving fast, it is slowing down, because of which the ‘patriarchs’ are forced to bring the implicit rules as explicit…That is a definite positive change towards de-talibanization…


  6. Pingback: “I am trying to make a list of soooooooo many advantages a girl can have if she is born in a Western family as compared to being born in india.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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