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Why Is Salwar Kameez Considered ‘Appropriate’ Dress Code For Women?

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TW: Mentions of rape, shaming

Should clothing solely be condemned for the circumstances women encounter in Indian Society?

Every time, while stepping out, we have been advised to dress suitably. To hide the bra strap if noticeable, to not wear tight-fitting dresses, or to avoid revealing clothes and hearing the largely adopted saying “Jaisa desh waisa bhesh (an avatar to fit the country)” But who are the people who determine which “bhesh (avatar)” we should be?!

Image Credit: samyuktha_hegde via Instagram

The Recent Incident In Bangalore

The recent incident in Karnataka, Bangalore has disturbed me deeply.

A bunch of occurrences in our nation infuriate me and every other woman. However, I held Bangalore in slightly higher esteem, due to distinct reasons or conceivably because of the higher literacy ratio of the city. There is a reason why it is called Silicon Valley.

But the industrialization, the advancement, the educated population in comparison to other states, and all the further refined aspects serve no function, because, we cannot accept a woman jogging in sportswear despite the urbanization of the metropolis. Recently, a Kannad actress and former Roadie contestant, Samyuktha Hegde, was seen exercising in the public park with two of her other friends.

When a middle-aged woman named Krishna Reddy came across and intimidated the actress about her attire, and later after an incensed debate, physically assaulted one of her other friends. Soon, the lady phoned the police and the officers, of course, they favoured the other side. A mob gathered quickly and stood as bystanders.

Most of the bystanders agreed with Krishna Reddy, while only a few sided with the actress. After all, our attire reveals who we are to society, right? Soon, the actress took to one of her social media handles, and was live on Instagram, to inform people about the incident.

Also, recently the other lady, Krishna Reddy apologized to the actress for her aggressive behaviour. But does this suffice? Will patriarchal belief transform? 

Attire And Assault

The misconception that a woman’s attire would deter the possibility of assault is widespread. According to the recently released official government crime data of The National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a rape case is reported every fifteen (15) minutes.

Also, other reports released by the National Crime Records Bureau In 2018, reveal every fourth rape victim in India was a minor.

So, are we going to settle all the charges, for all those cases in the country, based of the attire of a woman? Does our attire determine whether we would be assaulted or raped, if we are clothed according to our preferences?

Well, this opinion that our attire must be blamed for the assaults we suffer has cultivated from our households and the institutions in which we have been educated. And all of these can be observed in the day-to-day phenomena of society. 

How Women Are Policed For Their Attire

When at home, a man roaming shirtless is extremely familiar, nobody expresses any concern even when he stops into the grocery store in a vest. However, all the eyebrows are raised when a woman wears an attire ‘inappropriate’ to the societal precepts. Similar is the status in the educational institutions.

Length of the skirt an inch above the knee and complaints can be seen in the individual diaries.”

Are we existing in the twenty-first century for real or are merely fooled by the fallacy of modernity?  Why can’t educational institutions educate the youthful men, and teach them how to conduct proper behaviour, rather than expecting a young woman to behave with ‘modesty’ and imposing restrictions on her at an adolescent age.

Representational Image

Schools are another place where this patriarchal notion of policing a woman’s attire is prevalent.

What Needs To Change?

Why is salwar kameez being brought in as the dress code for women? Is this the way to deter the harassment encountered by women? Is this how we would walk towards a progressive society? What values are being installed in teenagers? What would society and the established institutions accomplish this way? How will crime probabilities fall?

It would have been so satisfactory if families would have whispered to women to act humanely rather than ‘decently’. It would have been manageable for women to exist when educational institutions had carried actions against perpetrators, rather than filing complaints in the diaries of young women, and expecting them to dress appropriately.

It would have been much easier when society would have acknowledged: it’s not the attire, the danger lies in the identical perceived notion.

A mere bra can concern our society, it shatters the essences of the Indian society as the ‘protectors of society’ clarify. With the increase in the day-to-day occurrences and this one-sided behaviour, prejudiced standards created on gender makes the scenario wrong. And why is the onus to pursue the convention solely on women? Why?

We could never answer with certainty; it doesn’t make a difference in how we rationalize the opinions. Suggesting that we worship women, shows up plainly as a shield to our awful behaviour and prejudiced beliefs.

We may have evolved from the Sati System, but the serenity hasn’t reached to the women yet.

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