Dress code to women & girls, clean chit to rapists?

Young women dressed in white emboidered blouse...

Back to square one. Women get raped because they wear jeans and short/sleeveless tops. This comes from none other than Bangalore University’s Head of Committee Against Sexual Harassment K K Seethamma who is pressing for a dress code in the university because “women need to protect themselves by wearing good clothes”. Before this, Karnataka Women and Child Welfare Minister C C Patil stated that women themselves invite eve teasing, thanks to their “explosive” attire.

“I’m against women wearing obscene clothes. With such clothes, they tempt men and that’s why they get raped. Even when one wears saris, long-sleeve blouses must be worn,” Seethamma has been quoted as saying in TOI today.

Going by her statements, Seethamma, who teaches women’s liberation and feminism, seems to have loads of statistics stacked on her table and all of that seems to be suggesting that those who got raped so far were wearing jeans and short tops and sleeve-less blouses.

Each time I get to read/hear such statements, my instant reaction is: “God, it started again!” Up goes the spout all the theories and case studies by feminists of all stripes and criminologists and medical and socio-psychological experts that clearly reveal that rape is not about sex, it’s about power. It’s a crime committed by male rapists who exercise their physical power over girls and women. It’s basically an act crazed with misogyny. A lot of wrong socio-cultural conditioning is at stake here, not the length of the skirts or T-shirts women wear.

Seethamma has also warned her women colleagues that they cannot expect respect from their male students if they wear salwar and jeans but that “only a sari with long-sleeve blouses invokes respect for women teachers, nothing else”.

Let me put it on record. I have also headed a journalism institute for a year and wore all that is being termed “obscene” here. None of my male students disrespected me or went absent from my classes in protest. We had healthy fun discussing all kinds of issues and there wasn’t a peep of protests, or innuendos hurled at me or my girl students, when women’s rights came up for discussion. Perhaps they were more mature and knew how to respect women for the content of their character and not pay heed to such demeaning public discussions against half the human race.

After dress code comes another. Since Seethamma is also advising that women should be back home by 6-6.30 pm, we can easily draw an inference that almost all rapes happen after sundown. I wonder if this advice is rooted in certain cases of BPO women employees who got raped and murdered. If yes, what about those women who do not work in BPOs, who are back home by nightfall, who wear saris with all the ‘grace’ she is advocating and still get raped?

Apart from outraging women for no fault of theirs, the worst outcome of such small-time moralism is that it openly tells rapists that they did everything just right.

Is this how we should be discussing rape—a serious human rights violation—in public spheres? Can it degenerate any further? It can. Degeneration knows no bounds. It’s a bottomless pit.

Since dress code is being dangled like a Damocles’ sword each time eve teasing and rape come up for discussion, those in power should also answer these questions: what do you have to say about schoolgirls in their uniforms who get molested/raped by van drivers and their accomplices? What do you have to say about those little three- or four-year-old girls of construction workers who get raped in construction sites in broad daylight? What do have to say about those women aged 60 or more wearing saris and long-sleeved blouses who got robbed and raped at their homes in Bangalore by marauding criminals? What do you have to say about those newborns in their nappies dozing off in their cradle who get raped by mail servants/relatives?

Finally, what do you tell those fathers who rape their own girl children right in front of their mothers and render them pregnant: “Well done! Your daughter simply deserved it”?

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