ByÂ Madhushri Mudke:
This beautiful dress worn all over India doesn’t necessitate an introduction. Right from childhood, we all know the significance of salwar kameez. The dress that constitutes of an assembly of yards of clothing woven and embroidered into the three piece attire- salwar, kameez and dupatta. I accept that women look great in this ethnic Indian dress, in fact I have no issues with it. I myself love wearing it for a lot of occasions. It is suitable for both work and play. With its beauty and elegance, it is made to suite the Indian body type. One can experiment with colours, designs and different styles to perfectly team it up for college, work and even a party.
My questions here are- Is it alright to impose salwar-kameez or kurta-churidars on young school girls? Is it important to mandate it at all the work places? Is it suitable for all the professions? Are “kurtis” and “salwars” the only dress in which one can look descent? Is it comfortable for all? Can it help reduce the number of rapes and crimes on women? Do women have the freedom to dress the way they want?
It has been my observation that many schools these days have banned young girls from wearing skirts and tunics as school uniforms. They haveÂ to wear a legging below their skirts; the schools have successfully Â transformed their so called “western skirts” into “salwar-kameez”. I don’t know exactly how this helps. Asking young school girls to follow this dress code implies nothing but idiocy. Many say that this sort of a dress is comfortable and loose to move around.
“I am a girl and I don’t find it comfortable!”
I am aÂ physiotherapist by profession, and ever since I got admitted to this course I was always asked to follow a dress code. Throughout my education, it was mandatory for me to wear “salwaar” and “kurti” along with a lab coat. Frankly, taking the weather into consideration, the hot and humid winds of central India coupled withÂ the task of exercising with patients, and going from place to place in order to keep people fit- the salwar-kameez code does not go well andÂ I do not like wearing it. I believe in dressing decently; I understand my profession and I understand that I have to deal with a wide range of people, yet I am unable to figure out how salwaar-kameez helps in this process.
In a conversation:
Scene: All across the hospital, men, including students and staff, are freely roaming in shirts and pants. Some are in tight pants and slim fit shirts without a lab-coat, while women all around are expected to wear salwaar kameez and dupatta along with a lab-coat.
Person A (a bold beautiful girl):Â Why are women supposed to wear lab coats while men don’t? Why are only women expected to dress “Indian” with dupattas?
Person B (mostly a misogynist and a male chauvinist):Â Because women need to protect their assets.
You might be wonderingÂ why this girl is discussingÂ a mere issue of dressing and how does this have an effect when we all love our traditional salwaar-kameez. What exactly is the point?
My point is gender inequality, rapes, crimes on women, the way women are treated with what they choose to dress! Women even today have to follow these lame dress codes because the administration feels this sort of dressing can prevent perverts from attacking women.
No matter if it is the best of the universitiesÂ and institutions; they will still focus on dressing women appropriately than controlling men. Caught without a dupatta, wearing tight leggings or short kurtis is also punishable for women in many institutions and universities even today while men wearing tight pants, slim fit shirts, body hugging western clothes, are acceptable. If the dress code is called “Indian” then aren’t men supposed to wear dhoti, lungi or loose white pyjamas? Isn’t that gender-equality? Why is it that women have to wear Indian attires? And why are men wearing western cloths so well accepted in the society? What goes wrong if a woman sports trousers, skirts and shirts? It is the joint decision of the administration in these institutions to impose dress codes. Not only men, but also women think it is important to protect young girls by covering them up and this is the only possible solution to help reduce crime rates.
Keeping women “dressed appropriately”,Â asking then to wear a dupatta to hide assets, blaming them for attracting men, blaming the western culture;Â all this reflects the patriarchal Indian society. A womanÂ might just choose to wear hot-pants or skirts, and she’s not violating the culture. People who believe that the traditional Indian women wore salwar kameez need to read about the history of dresses worn in our country. Also how many of the salwar kameez preachers have seen kurti clad women in Harappan Civilization?
All those boasting about banning short-skirts, banning night clubs, keeping women covered, salwar-kameez dress codes and dupattas- I have just one last question; why was a six-year-old raped?