Restriction on women's dress is retrograde in the Indian society

Women's safety -much important.

India- dress code for girls

More often than not women's equal rights in the society, their empowerment, protests against injustice to them like denial of  entry of reproductive women in certain places of worship and a host of other social problems being faced by them  are widely discussed in the media.  A few of them have turned to be  contentious issues, getting the attention of the society as a whole.

 Roughly 7 to 8 years ago  ago certain women's colleges and schools  in some states vehemently imposed dress code for the school/college girls prohibiting them from wearing tight pants, shirts and tight skirts that might be revealing. The  managements'  contention was this would vitiate the atmosphere of the campus and they advised the girls to wear Salwar Kameez  or loose trousers, Salwar Kameez, native to Punjab, has become  a standard dress  for school and college going girls  across India. This dress code was meant to keep the girls away from men's lustful  eyes and to make the girl's life easy.   

Critics felt  that such retrogressive steps would   never work now  or in the future, besides women would get marginalized and would be tagged as weak. If women's freedom and mobility are restricted this will not reduce the crime against women which is a global menace. Rather they will be considered weal and vulnerable. If more restrictions are imposed on them, correspondingly, this will more increase the curiosity of men. In this male-dominated society, dress code for college/ school girls will not create a safer society. I would like to briefly present the following incidents that had happened in the past. 

Dress code for school teachers of Kerala?

If you think the dress code  or restriction were imposed  only on  girl students  across many states, you are wrong. Roughly,  a decade ago in the SW state of Kerala, where the literacy rate is way high, the state government gave female teachers the right to wear churidar or salwar  while on teaching duty. But the school  managements  giving priority to moral policing and modesty of girls  thought other-wise despite government regulation.  The paradox is in the majority of unaided and private  institutions run by many Hindu communities and Christian missionaries,  the unwritten rule imposed by them  was  teachers should wear sari saying it is the ‘tradition’ and ‘symbol of dignity.’ What is the rationale behind this subtle  restriction? Students ‘respect’ teachers  and hold them in esteem only when they teach wearing  sari!!

Schools like Chinmaya Vidyalayas and those run by Christian missionaries had a sari code. Their contention was there should be a visual divide or a sort of  marker between the teacher and the taught. The management felt:  “Churidar is a convenient dress. But sari is a symbol of dignity''.

Presently, I have no idea whatsoever about the dress code prevalent in the unaided schools of  Kerala.  However, the restriction on duty teachers in schools was against the government order issued  on February 4, 2008 allowing teachers to wear churidar/salwar following complaints about the discomfort of wearing saris. The order mentioned that as per Kerala Education Rules, there are no specific rules with regard to the dress code of teachers

Dress code imposed by village Panchayat in Haryana!! 

In October 2013, a few  villages in the state of Haryana in Northern India  went one step ahead  and issued judicial orders like courts. They  put a ban a host of things on girls  to prevent honor killing and mixed marriages. Khap panchayats (caste councils) in the State were quite annoyed with girls “for being the agents who pollute society and bring a bad name to the community” Jat caste forms the dominating community here. Not far away form the semi and urban areas, here  wearing a pair of jeans, going for a drive with a male friend or even talking on a mobile phone - social  behavior which is normal for any young girl just a few miles away from khap-dominated  areas - can attract serious punishment.  Rohtak and Birohar Khap panchayat  councils  took drastic steps to curtail  breach of  council-sponsored   restriction on girls. Disgusted to such an extent they  appointed  special squads of “responsible men  to spy on girls'' and present a report on them  at the next meeting. In addition, they went to the school and warned the girls ''not to break the rules in their own interest”. Being smart as they were, the girls were hoodwinking  the council  dress code restrictions by wearing  traditional dress when leaving the village. On the way they would get into  modern  dress at  a pre-arranged place before going  to School.  The khaps pressed  schools and colleges to have separate buses for boys and girls.

dress restrictions in Haryana.

Countless social activists consider the diktats of these khaps (self styled judiciary   cum village Panchayats) unethical and rooted in the medieval era. The urban elite, though talked about the equal rights of women, they did not want to confront the members of the village council. But the girls kept breaking the village rules, of course, secretly.


Village elders and their restriction on ''nightie'' during the day!!

Two year ago in the month of November 2018, an interesting scoop in the newspapers drew the serous  attention of  Indian women's society.  It was about the ban  on ''nighties'' imposed by the elders of the nondescript village -  Tokalapalli in the state of AndhraUsing public decency as a ruse, elders of this village in Nidamarru mandal in West Godavari  district banned women  from wearing nighties during the day as they invited disparaging and   humiliating remarks  from a section of men when  ventured out. To solve this menace and protect the women folks' modesty , the elders  chipped in and decided that the sight of nightie-clad women in  public places like markets, schools hospitals, etc  would be affront to the decent society. The violation of the dress ban would invite a fine of Rs.2000.  The Mandal/ village panchayat with  9 members (elected by the local community) from the Vaddi caste (mostly farm and fishing community)  passed a resolution in the meeting introducing a ban on nighties from dawn to dusk in public places within the village limit.

Ban on nightie, Andhra

After the ban there were no protests from the women folks, rather many of them welcomed the decision taken by the elders of the village. They also did  admit that they patiently had to put up with  unwanted and disgusting stare and remarks from men in the village when going out with the nightie on.

When the topic of western clothing for girls comes up for discussion invariably lots of  people put the blame on the girls  who dress themselves up in skirts or jeans. They also don't leave the movies either, because the films mostly portray modern dress clad  girls. The girls with modern dress on  are looked upon with a weird  gaze and are often  subject to  sharp criticism.  Countless old timers and conservative people in India are crying hoarse about the erosion of Indian culture and  age-old tradition. Despite the onslaught of western culture  like celebrating  Valentine day, lover's day, etc  that are new to the Indian society, a large section of women folks in the urban and rural areas  do not give up on basic ethics and cling onto  age-old  traditional dress with a touch of modernity.   The ban on  women wearing tight western clothing  is considered as a solution for sexual harassment by many. It is not the right solution, no matter what kind of political clouts the culprits have, the rapists and people doing other mischief with girls must be severely punished up to 10 years rigorous imprisonment  besides a hefty fine running into Rs, one lakh plus. In the present scenario erring men should be more subject to scrutiny.