Of uniform code ethicists and tameez of kameez

shivangi-narayan

Shivangi Narayan | June 2, 2014



It has almost become a trend now to hear strange, sometimes bordering on the insane, advises on ‘how-to-escape-rape’ from intellectuals, sages, politicians and in this case, erstwhile feminists after the country has witnessed a horrific rape incident. We heard it from Asaram Bapu last year, after the December 16 Delhi rape case, who said that the girl should have begged the men to leave her, projecting her as their sister and should have chanted the Saraswati mantra.

Madhu Kishwar, erstwhile feminist and scholar, has a more practical thing in mind. According to her, the most ‘safe’ dress for a woman is a ‘Punjabi style salwar kameez’. She said, “Safest and most convenient dress for women is the Punjabi salwar/ churidaar kameez. Efficient, yet feminine! Suitable even for air hostesses.”

Of course by ‘safe’ she means safe against such assaults as rape and molestation. However, it is interesting to note how Kishwar thinks that women’s attire is synonymous with inefficiency.

Kishwar should know, as a woman’s rights and Dalit rights activist, that there are no statistics to prove that women in salwar kameez are raped less, but one thing is for sure: show me one woman raped in a mini skirt and I will show you five who were raped in a burqa.

When girls as young as six months old are raped in India, can we really have a dress which is ‘safe’ for women?

However, we do know that many people agree with Kishwar’s prescription. The outrage against her tweet on Twitter also has certain people who think she is right. This is because Indians have been taught since forever to read a lot into what a woman reads, eats and of course wears. “Oh she smokes,” they say, “she is of course game for a fun night.” “Oh she wears a skirt, her morals are definitely down!”

Kishwar draws her inspiration from a culture of people who caricature a woman into the “girlfriend material” and “wife material”; into the “good girl” and the “naughty girl” on the basis of her dress and food (consumption of alcohol or smoking).

With the load of the reputation of the entire khandaan (family) on her shoulder, a girl is constantly under scrutiny. Salwar kameez and later the saree then become her armour of choice. A symbol to tell all that she is a law abiding thing who will not flinch an inch to do her husband’s bidding, which is what is most important anyway.

Kishwar confuses this less-than-adequate living with ‘safety’ of a woman. Of course, Ms Kishwar, salwar kameez is safe, but at what cost?

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