I woke up to a rather curious and almost amusing advisory issued by the Union Minister Mahesh Sharma. In the list of dos and don’ts listed out for foreign tourists arriving in India, a prominent point advised tourists not to wear skirts and refrain from going out alone at night in small towns. Speaking to media persons in Agra about safety of tourists, the minister goes on to add that, “For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts. Indian culture is different from the western (culture).”
For somebody who has been brought up in an atmosphere steeped with the rich legacy of our ‘Hindu Culture’ I am surprised since when our ‘Culture’ became this exclusive?! The same Indian culture which is being used to deter women tourists from wearing short skirts also emphasises ‘men should be respecting women and ensure that their modesty is not outraged’. Funny enough our minister only wants to remember Hindu culture when it comes to how women need to dress.
The same Indian culture that he is flaunting also worships women as Goddess, how come there safety is always such a concern despite us having ministers like ‘Mahesh Sharma’ who are this keen to uphold the values of Indian culture!? I am indeed curious. As a modern Indian woman, I have been taught to respect my culture but at no point of time in life has my culture ever dictated what I wear and how I should think.
I am also surprised at the upbringing that my male counterparts have received in this country. Are they so gullible, desperate and frustrated that a simple act of a woman wearing something is enough to provoke them, fall to the lows of committing the most heinous crimes against humanity like rape and come out of it clean by blaming it on the dress!
I am sorry but I seriously feel both the Government and society need to put in more valuable hours into creating a better safety net for citizens and tourists to the country, beef up the security measures and deal with the perpetrators of crime against women with an iron hand. Let us no longer fool ourselves that it’s only a woman dressed in skimpy clothes or going outside at night that provokes such act. Police records would prove otherwise.
Perhaps Union Minister Mahesh Sharma and the Government mechanism would do better to grasp the importance of treating the equality, safety and respect for women at par with men and look at more constructive measures to improve their safety. Avoiding short skirts can only be an option when men too have similar restrictions!