Recently there has been spate of comments and discussions on how the women should dress in India to avoid sexual harassment, rape and embarrassing situations. According to Director General of Police of Andhra Pradesh, one of the main reasons for rising number of rape cases could be the provocative clothes being worn by women. The women must dress decently otherwise indecent clothes may provocate men sexual instincts. Three years back, Chief Justice of Karnataka, Cyriac Joseph also suggested that immodest dressing was one reason for increasing crimes against women. He added “Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us,” Not only in India, you can hear similar comments in developed countries, for instance few weeks back Toronto police officer said that to remain safe Women should avoid dressing like sluts.
But this is not cent percent true, even decently clad women in saree, salwar suit or even burqa have been the target of sexual misbehaviour. Is there any statistics or data that prove that most women who were raped were wearing provocative dresses? Such statements by honourable persons such as DGP of Police and Chief Justice are very shocking. But in lieu of blindly criticizing them, we need to carefully analyse the whole issue. It does not matter, whether dressing sense is directly or indirectly related to sexual harassment or not. Rather, the fact of the matter is both men and women should dress sensibly. Yes, in India we have freedom to choose our dress but we should always remember that freedom comes with some responsibilities. We should avoid wearing revealing and exposing clothes. We should be smart enough to know what dress we should wear in different places. There is a myth in our society that only liberated and independent women wear provocative dresses. A liberated woman is one who is proud of her roots, doesn’t ape the west blindly, fights against social evils against women like, dowry, female infanticide and fights for equality.
In September 1997, the Christ College in Bangalore banned girls from wearing jeans and short skirts. They declared jeans and short skirts as ‘indecent’. This rule was only for girls. I think this is double standard. The rule should be common for both boys and girls. In the end, the ban was removed after so many rounds of discussions and heated debates. Similarly in March 1999, Berhampore Girls College placed a notice at the gate banning entry to all girls not wearing the sari. The announcement endorsed a 1947 decision by the college authorities to ban any form of dress other than the sari for girls on the campus. I think this type of rules is completely irrelevant in 21st century. Women should be given freedom to choose their clothing and not subject to social control.