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Kissing: Lets not mix up morality and law

Is kissing and hugging acceptable to Malaysian citizens? Is the act according to the morality of the Asian people? The answer of that in the negative is the rationale of the Federal Court's when it said that the two young people - Ooi Kean Thong, 24, and Siow Ai Wei, 22 - accused of kissing and hugging in a public park could be charged with indecent behaviour.

With respect, I disagree that kissing and hugging in a public is indecent, much more, that it is a prosecutable offence. Is the act according to the morality of the Asian people?

With due respect, morality is morality, law is law - let's not mix up morality and law as if they cover the same area, at least not in the context of a secular constitution (as distinct from a religious one) presently in operation.

It is the first I hear that hugging and kissing by young people in public area is deemed indecent in Asian countries.

I don't know about West Asia comprising large swathes of the Middle East but I doubt kissing and hugging between young non-Muslim couples is deemed immoral much less a prosecutable offence in East Asia or even South East Asia comprising Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, India, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam or Burma.

How are we going to promote tourism under the Ninth Malaysia Plan if Western tourists may be apprehended by overzealous City Hall officials and prosecuted and fined for hugging and kissing in the park area in front of the twin towers? They may be hugging and kissing as a pose for a photograph.

Surely section 8(1) of the Park Bylaws cannot be applied to locals in exemption of foreigners. We cannot apply two standards of the law on different people at least not in these kind of cases.

If hugging and kissing by young people in public is deemed indecent and unlawful, how can this behaviour be proscribed in the park and be allowed in other public domains like for example in other parts of the city or even on television shows and Astro? Am I to be worried if I hug and kiss a visitor of the opposite sex in a public area like the KLIA when I greet her on her visit to Malaysia?

I am afraid we will degenerate to a prudish and closet mindset if we attribute shame, immorality and impropriety to even a fully clothed young couple giving each other a chaste kiss or hug in public.

More important, it is to be reiterated, that whether or not a kiss or hug in public is viewed immoral or socially disapproved in Malaysian society is not the main issue (though this itself is contentious and cannot be determined without a definitive survey and opinion poll).

This is because the real main issue here is whether the maximum conduct based on teachings of morality under purview of parents and teachers should be kept separate from minimum anti-social conduct prosecutable by laws by the authorities.

Or is the Federal Court laying down the principles that morality and law are inseparable, and that the laws are now used to enforce even morality (the traditional enclave of schools and parents)?

Whose morality then? Would not article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution guaranteeing freedom of life be infringed?

I believe that even if a majority non-Muslims do not approve of hugging or kissing in a public area, this does not mean that they think it is an unlawful behaviour warranting the intervention of the law to proscribe it.