Indian schoolboy suspended for ‘long hug’ with female classmate

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An Indian school principal Wednesday defended suspending a male student for embracing a female classmate in “a long hug”, vowing to uphold “decorum” even as his decision is challenged in court.

A furore has engulfed the school in southern Kerala state after the 16-year-old was suspended in August for hugging a female friend and posting images of the pair on social media.

The teenager appealed the decision and state authorities ordered he be allowed to finish his final year of high school.

But last week St Thomas Central School successfully blocked that ruling in court -- prompting a counter-challenge from the boy’s parents who have accused school leaders of overstepping boundaries.

“Why can’t my son go out with his girlfriend? The girl or her parents don’t have any complaint,” the boy’s father told the Indian Express newspaper.

But school principal Sebastian T Joseph defended his decision, saying the pair’s behaviour was “the tip of the iceberg”.

“It was not only a hug. They posted compromising pictures (of themselves) on Instagram which had 800-900 likes from the school students,” Joseph told AFP.

“They should follow decorum. We don’t appreciate bodily contact or hugs for a long time. The hug of appreciation is something different.”

The student accused the school of interfering in his “personal issues” and stripping his right to education and privacy.

His father said the controversy should have ended when the pair apologized.

In May, rights groups accused a court in Kerala of infantilizing an adult woman by annulling her marriage to a Muslim and ordering her to return to her parents’ home.

The marriage was nullified at her Hindu father’s request, despite her pleas that the union was consensual.