To wear or not to wear..that is the question.
To wear or not to wear: Sexual violence and women’s sartorial choices If you are a woman, recall this: How many times have your parents told you to ‘dress right’? How many times has your mother told you to not wear a short skirt or a body-hugging pair of low-waist jeans when you go out in public, especially in a city like Mumbai? How many times, do you think, have your sartorial choices been judged by other people, outside of your house- boys, men, other girls and middle-aged aunties, gawking at you from a distance? The problem becomes bigger when a woman’s choice of clothes boils over to the issue of gender violence. When heinous sex crimes like rape, molestation, and eve-teasing are blamed on the clothes women wear, amongst other things blamed for such crimes. This phenomenon, as I have experienced, is seen on a regular basis in India- whenever any case of sexual violence is reported in the newspaper. According to some perverse-subversive self-appointed guardians of morality in India, women ‘ïnvite’ rape by wearing certain kind of clothes. What are these ‘clothes’? ‘Western’ clothes: low waist jeans, T-shirts, tops, tank tops, dresses and all other wear you can imagine. In fact, if a rape survivor/molestation victim goes to lodge a complaint in the police station, the first question she’s asked is: What was she wearing at the time of the crime? Because, apparently, if a woman wears ‘revealing’ clothes, she has ‘loose morals’, is éasy’ and consents to sexual intercourse. So she invites the crime of rape of molestation by wearing those clothes. The rapist, molester or eve-teaser has no liability whatsoever. Their perversions are not something to be despised or considered responsible. Their misogyny, their considering women as objects to be screwed do not constitute the reason for sexual violence. It is always a woman’s fault. Men are free to consider women in ‘Western’ attire fair game for forcing themselves upon her- what they are doing is not reprehensible. A prominent musician said, a few months back, that women should not ‘bother’ others by wearing ‘jeans’ and inviting sexual violence. A politician said that rapes happen only in ‘India’- meaning the urbanized areas, and not ‘Bharat’- the rural areas, because urban women wear Western clothes. Yes. Because women in burkhas, suits and sarees don’t get sexually assaulted, according to these people, these clothes don’t invite sexual violence. Men wouldn’t consider such women objects of sexual desire. They are ‘virtuous’ women. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as we have seen. Women in ‘Indian’ clothes get teased, molested and sexually assaulted equally. Even women in Burkhas get assaulted. How about young, pre-pubescent girls getting assaulted? They don’t wear clothes to seduce men, do they? They have no idea what these things even mean. The mechanism behind their getting assaulted is in the criminal’s mind. What about women who get raped by people they know? How about women who suffer from marital rape in the supposed ‘safety’’ of their homes? Do they go about wearing low cut, revealing clothes to ‘seduce’ their perpetrators? Why is it always a woman’s ‘virtue’ and ‘character’ always under scrutiny? What mentality is it that sees her clothes as the beacon of her ‘character’? Khaps in Haryana State thinks it fit to ban jeans for women to prevent rape. Recently, a fringe religious outfit called for legislation to ban ‘western’ clothes for women to prevent sexual crimes. No one passes comments or condemns the actions of those who commit sex offenses. To provide a recent, burning example, let’s take the example of Deepika Padukone. When a leading national newspaper published a video of her cleavage on Twitter, she protested in outrage. The newspaper refused to apologize, and in a height of shamelessness, published pictures of her in bikinis, modeling for magazines. Trying to slut-shame her, tell her that her dress was responsible for them secretly taking a video of her cleavage and posting it online. She ‘invited’ harassment by dressing up like that, according to the newspaper’s editors. We need to build a consensus where the survivor of eve-teasing, groping, sexual harassment, molestation and rape aren’t slut-shamed and blamed for inviting the crime. A woman never invites crime by the clothes she wears. The perversion lies in the criminal’s mind, who is always looking for an excuse to assault and violate a woman.