The use of the veil – forcing women to cover their faces – is an age-old form of patriarchal dominance. With justifications ranging from ‘honour’ or ‘modesty’ to ‘respect’, many religious sects around the world force women to cover themselves from head to toe. It thus fulfills the patriarchal premise of completely invisibilising women in public and ensuring they occupy as little space as possible in a male-dominated world. This is also often dressed up in the garb of benign sexism – apparently done for the women’s ‘own good’, thus robbing them of any agency and choice in their own lives. While still an uphill task in many regions, women have been fighting this practice for a long time.
While the most prominent image of the veil is the Islamic ‘Purdah’, this practice is by no means limited to Islam. In many Hindu communities, the practice of ‘Ghunghat’ serves the same function. While the debate regarding the use of the purdah by personal choice rages on, one thing is undeniable – a man cannot force a woman to wear it. This video by BBC India highlights how a group of women from different religions have been leading a successful movement to stop this oppressive practice in Haryana. Started by Manju Yadav, a teacher, the movement is now supported by women and some men from 47 villages, as well as state authorities. The movement has been smashing barriers, but the fight is not done.
Watch the powerful video below, which shows how even one person can start the change: