Sexual crimes against women deserve condemnation, not amateurish prescriptions. Unfortunately, some politicians and moral guardians think otherwise, as could be seen from the decision of the Puducherry Government to prescribe dress codes for girls.
Sociologists and activists have rejected the argument of the Puducherry Education Minister T Thiyagarajan that rapes and other sexual crimes could be curtailed if schoolgirls wore an overcoat instead of a dupatta or if boys were not allowed to mingle with girls.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had reportedly said,“Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.”
Archana Agarwal, Assistant Professor of Socioeconomics at the Delhi University, who is also a feminist, says: “Boys and girls should get to know each other than perceiving the other sex as an object to be pursued or feared. Preventing from interacting with each other would actually lead to an increased possibility of crimes.”
Psychologists point out that there is a tendency to assume that victims of sexual violence somehow brought it on themselves. In fact, during a survey conducted among judges in India in 1996, 68 per cent of the respondents said that provocative clothing is an invitation to rape.
Psychologist and counselor to victims of sexual violence, Dr Sahana Das says, “The provocative clothing bit and the measures suggested by Puducherry indicates that we acknowledge our inability of providing for an equitable society that perpetuates the patriarchal notion shrouded in the packaging of ‘protecting women.’”
She suggests that the focus should be on reforming men who are the actual offenders than curbing the little freedom of women.
Pointing to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, which reveals that incest rapes have increased by over 30 per cent in a span of a year, Sahana asks, “Will politicians now ask women to stop their interactions with fathers, brothers and other male relatives?”
Such absurd measures will only result in increased perversions owing to suppressed interactions at a platonic level, she avers.
Vidya Reddy of Tulir, a centre for the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse questions whether, “The lawmakers think that only girls at school and college are subjected to sexual violence. If that is the case, then I can only imagine the quality of educators and their myopic vision.”