Monday, October 21, 2013

Is burqa oppressive to women?

Burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by some women following Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public. There are various articles or posts about whether it's use is oppressive to women or not? Some support it in the name of religion, modesty or to protect women's dignity, some oppose it and consider it a sign of women oppression and attempt to restrict their freedom. I read both point of views and both have some positives and negatives in them. According to me what to wear is totally personal choice, if any one wants to cover their body using burqa or any other outfit I don't think anyone should have any problem with it, but at the same time if someone wants to wear some revealing outfit then also people should not make a big deal out of it, it's personal choice, people are free to wear whatever they feel is appropriate for them. If any one is forced to wear some particular type of dress in name of religion or even modernity then it's wrong, it should be questioned.

People who support (some rather demand) use of burqa for women claim that it protects them from sexual harassment (by covering their body), so what they mean is if men see exposed body parts of women (like face, hands or legs, even in public places) they may not be able to control their sexual emotions and there is a high risk of sexual abuse for women because of their physical appearance. This is an attempt to put the blame on victim, so even if it's the men who can't control their behavior and commit the crime there is an attempt to put blame on women. Is it just because people think they are soft targets? Or people think that it's easy to force them to follow society imposed rules? No religion or cult movement is very kind with women, they don't give equal status to them, founders of all these movements and sects are men, so obviously they designed the rules which suited needs of their own gender which was dominant in society. They wrote books which glorified women, even made them demigods but didn't offer them equal status. Introduction of all these dress codes, very rigidly defined role in family and society was an attempt to control them and confine them so that they don't compete with men. This trick worked for centuries because of male dominated society, women had no support to fight for their rights until feminist movements started almost century ago. Slowly but steadily in last few years we have made lot of progress but still a lot needs to be done.

Dress codes for women are imposed in many places, they are even imposed for both genders at certain places or functions like marriages or some parties etc., personally I am against all this, I don't like anyone telling me what to wear. I like to wear clothes in which I feel comfortable and I respect others choice and expect other to respect mine, as I like to choose what I want to wear and I am sure others are like to choose their own dress. The topic of school uniform (or work uniform) is totally different, this rule is imposed to bring uniformity and feeling of togetherness in school or work place and it is for both genders. I feel amazed as well as enraged when some people attempt to bring God and religion in all this, these things have nothing to do with what clothes people should or shouldn't wear. Clothes can protect us against weather or make us look more attractive but we can not put entire blame on person's apparel if he/she is victim of physical or sexual assault, there are many cases where kids get sexually harassed, what role does their dress play there? So the theory that more revealing clothes encourage or invite sexual assault is basically flawed, it pathetically tries to put entire blame on victim when the major problem lies somewhere else. Educating men and women to respect each other, teach them to treat each other equally is better solution than putting entire blame and moral responsibility on women. We all need to respect each others choices, we should not judge anyone based on what clothes they wear, which country they belong or what religion they follow.

If anyone wears burqa by choice it is like any other dress, why anyone should have any issue with it but if anyone is forced to wear it in name of religion, god or just because of their gender then it becomes a symbol of oppression, discrimination and violation of human rights. The dress which we wear or food which we eat is personal choice which we make based on our likes and dislikes, I don't think anyone of us would like if someone forces us to eat some particular dish just because we belong to some specific religion or because of our gender, we all like to taste different cuisines, some we like and some we don't, same way we should think about clothes. People like to express themselves and their clothes are one of the ways which some people choose to express themselves we can't take this right away from them. Let it be individual's choice what they want to wear free of any social pressure. I am not against burqa or any other dress, people are free to wear what they like, forcing dress code only on women is sign of male chauvinism, in today's world we don't need it and we should not encourage it, once we stop doing it it will be another step towards bringing equality for both genders in our society.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. Burqa
2. Don't tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape.....
3. Rape is never the victim's fault.
4. Is there any way to reduce rape and sexual abuse incidents?


  1. You might find this interesting:

    Didn't know Hijab worn only by Aristocrats in the beginning.

    As always keep writing

    1. Thanks Avinash for sharing these very informative links, it's really interesting to read history of veil. Please keep sharing useful information it will be good for readers.

  2. vinay i think this goes the same for the hindu married women who wear mangal sutra after marrying. what do you say? is this also not a force rather than a choice.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, I completely agree with you, anything which is forced on person just because he/she belongs to particular gender or religion or race is not good. Tradition of wearing Mangal Sutra is not common all over India it's more common in Maharashtra and may be in South, in northern India they don't wear it but they have 'sindoor' and 'bindi' which is mandatory for married women. Interestingly married men don't have to wear any signature ornament or makeup to indicate that they are married. This is because these things were designed by male dominant society and they designed it as per their convenience. In western countries I see that married men and women both wear rings, in this case at least its same for both genders.

  3. vinay i think this goes the same for the hindu married women who wear mangal sutra after marrying. what do you say? is this also not a force rather than a choice.
    i have never understtod why men force us to wear the mangal sutra. i have tried to speak with my husband but he is not the sort of people who can understand.


    1. Men force women to wear Mangal Sutra or any other thing (like sindoor or bindi) which indicates they are married because in past it was general perception that unmarried women are more prone to sexual attack or harassment compared to married women. Another reason was to stop other men from approaching already married women. Today these things may not be true or may not work, but still people believe in this, another point is when man considers women as his property, something he owns or have total right then they like to label it, this is very crude way but I don't see any other reason why a man living in civilized word or in safe environment will force his wife to wear something just to indicate that she is married, surprisingly there nothing was imposed on men to indicate that they are married, I think this was because polygamy was very common in past. I personally believe that all these traditions are discriminatory and should not be forced on anyone, I am sure your husband will understand this one day. Thanks for your comment.