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Cut twerking, this ain’t LA

- House Panel wants obscenity law to cover live shows
Miley Cyrus performs at the 2013 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in end-November. The singer did not twerk anyone at this Los Angeles show. (AFP)

New Delhi, Dec. 10: A parliamentary panel has recommended that live performances be brought under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act to curb obscenity and suggested stricter punitive measures.

Such programmes impact young minds as they are performed in front of large audiences often comprising children, the panel studying a bill to amend the 1986 act has said.

“Live performances are also available to the public via YouTube. The committee is of the firm view that live shows indecently representing women in any manner, whether through song, dance or comedy, need to be curbed,” the committee has said in its report on the draft Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012.

At present, obscenity is punishable under Section 294 of the IPC with a maximum jail term of three months or fine. However, the committee felt the punishment should be on a par with the provisions of the proposed bill that prescribes a jail term of up to three years and fines.

The committee also said an independent central body should oversee such cases. It has asked the women and child development (WCD) ministry, which has drawn up the bill, to work with other ministries to ensure penalties are uniform across laws.

“The committee understands that at present such violations are dealt with under Section 294 of IPC which provides lesser punishment compared with that provided for (in the) indecent representation of women (act). The committee strongly feels that such live programmes lead to more adverse impact on young minds. The quantum of penalty has to be on a par in both situations (on screen and in shows).”

The panel recommends that clauses of the IPC such as Section 294, which provide for lighter punishments, be “reviewed” and harmonised with provisions suggested in the bill.

Under the 1986 act, the maximum punishment is a two-year jail term and fines up to Rs 2,000 for the first offence. The draft bill has increased that to three years and penalties up to Rs 1 lakh. For subsequent offences, the term shall be two to seven years with fines of Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakh.

The process of amending the 1986 act began over a decade ago in 2001, but it was only in 2012 that the bill was first placed in the Rajya Sabha from where it was referred to the parliamentary committee. It is now with the WCD ministry, headed by Congress leader Krishna Tirath.

But some artistes suggested the need for a larger perspective. Vir Das, a stand-up comedian known for his innuendo-laced one liners, said: “As an artiste I believe that one should exercise his or her own moral compass. However, people should remember that jokes are by nature not a point of view but a parody. It is not a speech and is not to be taken seriously.”

Das called for the law to have “some provisions to accommodate satire”. “At present, my show is on the battle of the sexes and I have made fun of both men and women in it. I believe that my humour is intelligent, but those who think that they have to complain against it, then all I can say is that I have trust in the legal system.”

Model and starlet Poonam Pandey suggested performers didn’t always decide the content at such events. “Sometimes, we are not the ones who decide what we wear and what songs we dance to. These laws are vague and I wouldn’t have any problems with them if they had been more explanatory on what constitutes indecency,” said Poonam, who is sought after for live shows, especially ahead of Christmas and New Year.

Most such cases involving celebrities are settled with fines. Examples include actor Akshay Kumar and wife Twinkle, booked under Section 294 of the IPC for obscenity at a fashion show.

In 2006, a case was registered against actress Rakhi Sawant for alleged obscene gestures and skimpy attires at a show. Mallika Sherawat faced similar charges.

THINK BEFORE YOU TWERK

WHAT IS TWERKING?

Dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance — says the Oxford Dictionary

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

Some say twerking has its origin in the New Orleans’ hip hop music scene and the song Do The Jubilee All (1993) by DJ Jubilee

WHO MADE IT FAMOUS?

Miley Cyrus. She first twerked in her video to We Can’t Stop, which released in June 2013

WHEN DID IT GO VIRAL?

When she twerked against pop singer Robine Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in New York in August

WHEN DID SHE DO IT LAST?

The 21-year-old twerked a man in a Santa suit on December 6 at KIIS FM Jingle Ball in Los Angeles