Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape.....

'Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape' 'Nazar Teri Buri Aur Parda Mein Karoon?'

These lines caught my attention while reading one news article in Times of India. The article was about the protest against the relentless stream of rape cases that have rocked the National Capital Region in recent times. With 465 rape cases registered in Delhi in 2011, 489 in 2010 and 459 in 2009 (on average more than one rape per day), one can clearly see that something is not right. No one can justify occurrence of so many sexual assault related crimes in capital of India. The slogans above are not only against rape but also against moral policing which many times blame women for the crime committed against them. Many people advice females to dress up properly, they insist that females should dress in ‘proper’ way to avoid unnecessary attention, or not to provoke emotions of males around; they should control their behavior and limit interactions with males…so the problem of males of not being able to control their animal instincts is conveniently blamed on females. In any free country and civilized society everyone one has right to dress up in a way they like (as long it’s not offensive or disturbing to others or against the law). Most of the societies give freedom to males to dress up the way they want but want to put restriction on females in as many ways as they can, this practice is going on for generations.

Use of dress code is not uncommon in society, many events or functions have dress code associated with them and people follow it gladly. Normally this dress code is recommended for certain functions and parties and people can choose not to follow it. But the dress code about which I am talking about is forced upon certain sections of society and often sanctioned by government. In many countries these compulsory dress codes (especially on women) are enforced by armed groups or self declared moral police or other non state actors. According to international human rights law every person has rights to freedom of expression and freedom to manifest their religion or beliefs. Many times the way people dress can be very important for them to express their religious, cultural beliefs or personal identity. As a general rule, in many countries where rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression exists, it means that all people should be free to choose what they do or don’t want to wear. Our governments have an obligation to ensure that every individual’s fundamental rights (freedom to express their beliefs and identity are one of them) are protected and respected. Religions and cultures can be interpreted in many ways; many people have interpreted so called holy books (scriptures) in many different ways. Interpretation of culture or religion or these holy books cannot justify imposing dress code on people, this is unjust to people who want to dress differently. Its government’s responsibility to create a healthy environment where every person can exercise their basic rights. Apart from state (or country) law no other agencies should be allowed to interfere with people’s basic rights, but it seems that many times authorities fail to do that. People’s religious beliefs are their personal thing, it cannot be imposed on whole society.  I know that there are many more important issues for government to look after than how people should dress. But when situation goes out of hand and stats clearly show that there is some problem then they should do something to protect their citizens. They should take measures to protect individuals or communities from being forced to dress in specific ways by their family members, religious groups, leaders or community.

Normally ideas associated with dress codes is one of the ways to stereotype gender identity, most of the time victims of this are women because somehow society, family members and even state (or authorities) believe that they are entitled (or have moral duty or right) to regulate women’s dress and behavior. They consider women’s image as the symbolic reflection of community’s values and culture. People who think like this even don’t care or bother to check whether these beliefs are shared by people on whom they are enforced. Enforcement of dress code can be a result of age old biased views against women which resulted in discriminatory attitude towards them and also reflect desire to control women's sexuality and behavior. I don’t know whether society or people who are doing this even realize that they are objectifying women and denying them their personal freedom. Many times whenever women are victim of violence, sexual or physical assault or are stigmatized for not abiding with dress codes they are told that the blame lies with them. These incidents are often used as reason to emphasize importance of dress code. This is unique scenario where victim is blamed for perpetuated crime against them rather than offender.

Statements mentioned above show us other extreme, when victim who is always blamed, most of the time for no fault of theirs retaliate then such reaction occurs. I can understand this rebellious attitude of women who are targeted continuously and forced to carry moral burden of society on their shoulders, it seems that males are free to do whatever they want but women should not cross their line. I think our society and culture has evolved enough to understand that we need to respect others beliefs and choices. As long as it is allowed by country's law every one has right to practice their right to express themselves in whatever way they want. Let's stop judging others by their external appearance, let's not stereotype any gender, community, culture or country. Along with our body and surroundings our thinking should also evolve, we can not live in 21st century with 1st century's mindset. Respecting our fellow citizen's feelings and rights is not such a big expectation to have, let's try to become law obedient, respectful and aware world citizen....

Thanks for reading and please share your comments.


(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at


  1. Similiar to reasons for doing wrong .... there are Thousands of reasons for doing 'right' too !

    The blame is on those act senselessly rather than doing things sensibly!

  2. Hello Vinay,

    There is no reason for rape.
    The punishment for rape needs to be harsher and the Police needs to have priority in their duty in this regards.
    The Indian police seem useless and corrupt from your story and so the rape goes on.


    1. Its unfair to label entire Indian police force as useless and corrupt. They do their best to control crime and protect citizens of India. I personally never had any bad experience about Indian police and respect them for their bravery and duty, there are problems in that department like many other departments.

      Police doesn't decide punishment its up to courts and law makers to decide it.

    2. @Vinay, Exactly the only department that doesn't take part in protest or strike, work day and night to safegaurd the people is police department. But there are some corrupt people in police dept, which should be corrected.

    3. I agree with you Kishore, like every government department this department also has some issues and need some reforms but that should not undermine their hard work and all the efforts they put to protect common people, let's try to help them by behaving like more responsible and aware citizens, this will definitely make their job little easy.

  3. Regarding law making process: I believe prevention is better then cure. According to that when laws are made human psychology has to be considered. For e.g. questions such as "why a person steal, take bribe or rape?" should be asked and then the law making process should include a factor other then fear of punishment to avoid such crimes. Laws made through ignorance of human psych may never be as affective as they should be. Mere a fear of punishment may lead them to do such crime when no one sees them. Criminals any way try to hide their crime, so they may not be afraid of punishment (no matter how harsh it is) as far as they assure themselves that no one is seeing their act.

    1. very true Nitin, prevention is better than cure..society as a whole needs to evolve along with individuals, harsh punishment serves limited purpose, so awareness and maturity of thoughts should help more along with solid laws.

    2. In other words, we all are looking for different revolutions such as economic, industrial, social etc. But the most important among all is Thought's revolution (Vichar Kranti). If this happens all other revolutions will follow. That's why I like to focus on it the most. Somehow I believe in todays words most of the thinkers talk about all sort of development but not many talk about vichar kranti!!? I would like to think how that can be attained?

    3. I totally agree with you Nitin...your observation about great thinkers is interesting..may be they were more interested in having followers rather than colleagues..thats why they just propagated their philosophy and formed various movements, sects and societies which argued, fought with each other but didn't work with each other...lets hope future generations wont make same mistakes...

    4. My comment was not limited to just philosophers but was for every individual (including politicians, teachers, all other professionals and every individuals) who wants to bring the change in the culture/system. Philosophers may be one small sub group of all.
      Personally I have no objection with any body trying to promote their philosophy. Not all are bad, so I dont prefer to paint every one with the same brush. I am believer of KARMA theory (still trying to understand it) and hence believe that one must ACT and he/she is also responsible for the consequences. So from that point of view everything that every individual do/don't is an ACT and there will be consequences for sure. As far as promoting philosophy is concerned, I think it is a human psychology to think that "I am right", and nothing wrong in it. I only try to force myself to ask lots of questions before come to the conclusion of "I am right".

    5. You are right Nitin, everyone has right to preach their philosophy or express their opinion. The problem is when they become sectarian or dictatorial in their attitude..and want to call all others wrong to prove that they are right. It's OK to think that 'I am right' but that doesn't always mean 'you are wrong' (other person is wrong)...we can find our right path and continue on that, if others are following somewhat different path then what the problem? We should learn to live in peace and respect others views..this can be take home message for all..

  4. If you go in a cold of night you would wear a coat and sweater for protection.
    In the heat you would wear less clothing’s for comfort.
    If you drive in a car you wear a seat belt as sensible precaution against crash.
    If you celebrate Holi you don’t put on your best clothes to be ruined.
    If you go into a temple you take your shoes off.
    If you know an area where riots are taking then sensibly you avoid that area unless you live there.
    In rain you wear rain coat.
    When you taken money out of Bank you sensibly pocket it least someone robs you.

    The world we live in isn’t the virtually perfect world.
    You may want it to be –but its NOT.
    You may think its your right to flash your money in street or wear see through dress or low cut dress but the fact is, there are nasty people in the world who will do nasty things whether you like to think you should be left alone or not.
    Its not about every person has rights to freedom of expression

    So the reality is that women should be careful and wear apt clothes.
    Its not about your rights.
    Its not about your freedom to wear or do what you like….
    Its about doing the right thing in a world full of evil.
    Its about taking the precautions and protections.
    Women should take precautions and be responsible.
    The burden is on women …whether they like it or not.
    This is the real world and not the dream world.

    Just because men walk around with their chest open does not give the right for women to do the same. Men are men and women are women.

    When you see a beautiful flower;
    You admire it
    then you smell it
    and finally pluck it.

    1. I agree to most of points you mentioned about taking precaution, being responsible and using common sense while dressing in public place.

      But I don't agree that burden lies only on women, social behavior is collective thing where everyone has equal responsibility. It does give women right to walk bare chest if men are allowed to do it, most democratic countries give equal rights to men and women. Who are we (males) to tell them that they can't do it, its they (women) who should decide whether they want to do it or not. My point is leave final decision to them (one can recommend, suggest, advise but cant force). I agree that 'Women should take precautions and be responsible' but let them decide what precaution they want to take, no one should dictate terms to them. Men and women are equal and every civilized, mature society understands it.

      And not everyone who sees a beautiful flower want to pluck it...many people are just happy to look at it without even touching it...:)