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January 4, 2012 / subramanyam

Provocative Dressing and Crime — My take

C. C. Patil’s (Karnataka’s Women & Child Welfare minister ) comments that women should “know how much skin they should cover” and Dinesh Reddy’s (Director General of Police A.P.) comment’s that the provocative dressing of women is an indirect cause of Sexual assault on women have brought the old question. “Does provocative dressing increase the occurrence on sexual assault ?” to the fore.

At the outset let me clarify one thing, I do believe that sexual assault/ rape is one of the most heinous crimes and a provocative dressing by the female is never an excuse for the man to take advantage, it would never exonerate him  from the crime committed. The entire discussion in the subsequent paragraphs is whether it increases the vulnerability of the woman or not.

Naturally, the reaction of women bodies to these comments has been strong , after all , the slut walk which was organized in Delhi (and all over the world last year) was because of such a remark by a police man somewhere in Canada.

You cannot justify violence by saying that the woman was not appropriately dressed… Indian women are conditioned to behave in a certain way so as to “protect themselves”, while men are hardly ever told how to behave. Why am I told not to wear skimpy clothes at night or make eye contact with strangers who stare at me? Every section of society is putting pressure on [the woman] to feel ashamed.”

Says Umang Sabharwal, the 19 year old fiery DU journalism student who was the spirit behind the Delhi Slut walk.

The main argument here is that a person with a crooked mind will commit a sexual crime irrespective of what the lady is wearing, when Burqa clad ladies can be raped in the middle east or Muslim dominated nations  how does the notion that a provocative dress enhances the chances of sexual assault hold good?

On the other side, we have people with a conservative mindset who do believe that, certain types of clothes and excessive skin show can be provocative and dressing up in that particular fashion might make women more vulnerable to sexual assault. The main stream of argument here is, excessive skin show rouses passion even in a normal man, leave alone a pervert. Again in a public place you never know what sort of crowd you might be facing, you might intelligent, smart and knowing the difference good and bad, but what if the guy opposite to you is a fool and is a person who has nothing to lose. If things go out of control the woman would be suffering more than the man.  Conservative clothing does not really provoke any such passions and is more safe, it might not nullify the occurrence of a sexual assault but it heavily reduces the probability of its occurrence.

My leanings are towards the conservatives , While I can’t make a sweeping generalization about feminine gender altogether, most of the women I came across in life are both rational and wary of threats to their dignity and chastity, they dress in accordance to the country’s social and practical limitations.For example, a friend of mine was more liberal in her dressing when she was in US and back home she was more conservative. The same dress would attract unwanted attention here she would say. This, I feel is the most practical and the most effective way to handle situations. You have control in the way you dress but you never have any control on the people’s reaction to your dress. So be on the safer side. A provocative dress is never an excuse for the man to commit a crime, it never exonerates from his crime, however  it might  be a catalyst for the crime.

One more thing, another important reason for the increase in the number of cases of Rape in India might have its roots in the way our movie industry and the advertising industry project women, be it dreaming of Sheela, ‘dirty’ Silk, Chikni Chameli, ‘lost in the AXE world’ girl among a few. These ‘larger than life’ depictions of sex sirens pollute idle minds in the name of popular entertainment. The media, in its greed concocts newer, filthier ways to infiltrate the public’s mind and thus altering their personality.

Last but not the least, no one can deny woman the right to dress as she wants but as Seema Goswamy says in this piece in The Hindustan Times, freedom comes with responsibility,

Let’s look at this another way. Let’s say you decide that it is your right as a law-abiding citizen to leave your front door unlocked when you go out. Is this likely to attract the attention of your friendly neighbourhood burglar? Probably. Is it more likely that you will be robbed as a consequence? Of course.

Does this mean that the thief who robbed you is not guilty? Of course he is. Does it follow that you bear no responsibility for what happened? Of course you do.

           You turned yourself into an easier target because of your actions – and you have to take the rap for that. Every choice we make has consequences; and we have to keep those consequences in mind every time we make a choice.

          So, no one is denying women the right to dress any way they feel like. But if you dress to be noticed, then don’t complain when you are noticed. If you dress to attract attention, then you must be reconciled to the fact that you can’t control what kind of attention you will attract. None of this can be used as a justification for rape – but yes, freedom does come with responsibility.

I could not have said it better.

sources : I used some comments from some of the online forums and news papers in this post.



Leave a Comment
  1. Sai Krishna / Jan 4 2012 1:12 pm

    Excellent post with an excellent analogy of the door…


  2. Sri Kris / Jan 4 2012 2:45 pm

    There are “n” number of reasons for Sexual assault on women. I neither read in newspapers nor watched in TV that due to provocative dress a girl was attacked.
    It is the helpless situation of women which makes men to behave crookedly.

    Irrespective of women dressing, a rogue will behave as rouge only if circumstances support (if girl is alone, if she cannot be protected etc etc..) . Who made that rouge to behave as rouge?. Girls? Movies? Advertisements? TV channels?

    I do agree that freedom comes with responsibility. But what responsibility a girl should have even she dressed properly…who are giving assurance that if u dress neat u will be in safe.. If govt / women welfare associations assure this, every girl will sacrifice her fond of modern dressing.

    Everything will influence particular behavior to some extent only. After that minute influence our wisdom should act…if that acts, no man will commence mistake even though women are alone or with provocative dressings or situation permits.

    “Provocative dressing increase the occurrence on sexual assault “-whoever commented this can’t contribute for controlling the crime rate and so they simply blaming women –thinking that girls already fascinated to stylish wares and can’t come out of that.

    Saying it bluntly in telugu “ Satakoti kaaranaalalo idi oka bodi kaaranam”


  3. Subramanyam K.V. / Jan 4 2012 11:00 pm

    Valli Garu
    Thanks for the comment.You brought out some very nice points . You brought to light on somepoints I might have missed. While I agree on most of the points you have mentioned, there are certain points where I would definitely differ on.


  4. subramanyam K. V. / Jan 5 2012 2:15 pm

    Valli Garu , even before I speak about the areas where I differ from your line of thought let me make one thing clear , I do believe in one thing.That might help some misconceptions go away. Rape is never ever a woman’s fault. Never. Ever. Okay, let’s say that again. Never, ever.

    It doesn’t matter if she is provocatively dressed. It doesn’t matter if she is walking down a rough street alone. It doesn’t matter if she is drunk. It doesn’t matter if she is out late at night. It doesn’t matter even if she is a sex worker.

    No woman ever ‘asks’ for it. Never ever.

    Hope that clears some misconceptions about the intent of the article then , again let me make clear that , I am not really wishing to get into an argument here,these things are linked to emotions and they never have any concrete right wrong answers, all we have on things of this sort is opinions and things where we don’t have a choice, like say the gender we are born into and the sort things we encounter in life shape our opinions, so getting into an argument only gets stuff heated up and makes us lose more than the argument. Hence please donot look at my statements as arguments just take them as my opinions which might be correct or wrong.

    lets go through your comment paragraph by paragraph, in para 1 you say that the helplessness of the woman is attacked , you are bang right when you say that , but when you say that you have not heard of dress being a matter in any of the cases, I beg to differ , there are cases of rape in Indian cities where women with skimpy clothes were targeted by animals in the form of men.

    Your point in the second paragraph, a rogue will behave as a rogue if circumstances help him and its irrespective of woman’s dress, very true to a large extent. My only words here are “a provocative dress might just be one more thing that helps him” .

    Then your point in para3 where you were speaking about the assurance, ok , today , I lock my house and go out on a long vacation, is there a guarantee that my house will not be burgled, I take all the necessary precautions and drive, is there a guarantee that some one will not come on the wrong side ? no right , just because there is no guarantee shall I unlock my main door and go or shall drive without a helmet ? does it seem logical ? no right , perverts/wrongdoers/crooked people are always there, and I believe it pays to be safe than sorry .

    Para 4 : bang on, you are again correct, to me man becomes animal when committing crime and I have enough doubts on the intellectual capability of animals

    If you think I am giving a sermon that women should sacrifice their fondness for modern dressing no , Who am I to say that ? as I said in the last paragraph of my post, if some one thinks they can handle the unwanted attention they get, they are free to dress as skimpily as they want, for, God forbid but if something untoward happens they are the ones who face the physical and mental agony .

    All I say is it pays to be safe than sorry.


  5. Sri Kris / Jan 5 2012 2:23 pm

    (For your previous comment) Subbu…it is deviation from the main topic..thing is not whether she likes it or not ..Topic is the reasons for the attacks.
    I do agree with u that no women even give a thought of that.
    I understand the sarcasm of your comment in the second para.
    Still I say, if u see a girl with provocative dress or alone in a rough street or with drunk or helpless in the midnight –what you do?…Any Guy- being a well disciplined and well brought up- will surely respect her irrespective of all other things.
    U might know that Girls are very timid and can’t dare to go out alone in the midnight. If u see any girl alone in the mid night please think what situations made her to come alone. Men should not encash that..!


    • Subramanyam K. V. / Jan 5 2012 3:35 pm

      Oh God ! did I Sound sarcastic , I am sorry , I swear I was not sarcastic, I meant what I said . A woman’s helplessness ,state,dress never should be taken advantage of. I just wanted to drive home that point and did not intend to make fun of anyone. I concur with your view that no normal lady (barring a few party animals) would come out and roam about during the midnight, there would be a strong cause if she is out at midnight and better respect it.


  6. ushasreerallapalli / Jan 5 2012 8:57 pm

    I don’t think it is a reason at all Subbu…it is sad but true that women are victims and also are blamed. So if they wear saree, and will be the victim then? will it be the mistake of men? women are just expected in everthing but when they are in trouble no one will take the responsibility of protecting or atleast the mistake..again that will be put on women by giving different reasons. When women are expected to have the responsibility while enjoying their freedom….men are expected to have the responsibility of behaving themselves and honor women irrespective of dress, circumstances etc..unfortunately people will always remind the responsibilities of women and forget to remind the responsibilities of men..


  7. Subramanyam K.V. / Jan 5 2012 11:07 pm

    Hi Usha ,
    Thanks for cross posting the comment here as well. I think I addressed some of the points raised in the prev comments of mine .


    • ushasreerallapalli / Jan 5 2012 11:37 pm

      Yeah… Subbu I didn’t see that yet…but I strongly say…this is just a reason to deviate people…women who are becoming victims are all middle class and poor women,,,who have to be in few helpless circumstances..for many reasons.No man can take advantage of those ..and start a new argument that they gave us the chance for it… before talking about a woman’s responsibility… I think there are many other factors u can focus on like what are the responsibilities of society towards a women..if atleast 1% of that happens then as valli akka said women will sacrifice their interest for modern dressing..bcoz women are having enough problems and really won’t be interested in inviting new..


  8. Sri Kris / Jan 6 2012 9:33 am

    @ Vamsi for his comments on FB: I agree with the comments of Ushasree which she posted in the blog. She says ” women who are becoming victims are all middle class and poor”.. That is true…These women are not party animals… and another thing is also true that most of the rapists are from the lower grade only…these rapists may not even come across any girl with such ultra-modern dressng. What they see is only in media…here catalyst is not the ultra-modern girl s’ dressing…it is the media. ..Then, better Govt work on media and ban the exposing they induce in public.


  9. Subramanyam K.V. / Jan 6 2012 12:32 pm

    Valli Garu and Usha
    I concur , both of you are absolutely correct , the only deviation might be the rape cases in Bangalore and Delhi where the cab drivers and autowallah’s took advantage of hapless call center employees who were returning home at midnight, it was one of those call center girls clothes that raised all this debate.You are true , it is the middle and lower classes that suffer the most, I would say the agony is more for the middle class, the society looks down on them for everything.

    I also accept the fact that media is the catalyst than any one else, I mentioned that in the article as well, yes “Party animals” don’t come this section of the society , they normally come from the upper echelons of the social strata . Govt taking a strong step here would be wonderful , can that happen is the question. There should be more self regulation also.

    Thanks to both of you for showing the other side of the coin by involving in the discussion , I should accept that I was not looking at those things before . Lets end this discussion here as we agree on some of the issues and we can safely agree to disagree on the rest.

    As for woman issues , I have written some other articles on that previously. Yes , there is are many responsibilities for the society . there are a number of changes which need to happen in the way the society looks at the new age woman .

    Here are the links. Please share you thoughts on these. It would be great if you can shed some light on these , for as women you know the issue better.

    Thanks to both of you for the nice discussion. Looking forward for more of this ilk in future .

    Thank you


    • ushasreerallapalli / Jan 7 2012 4:40 am

      Thanks Subbu..


  10. Srikrishna Dasu / Jan 13 2012 10:24 am

    Subbu.. Finally… i c some good content back on ur blog… Very nice article… Good Analogies… Well said… Freedom comes with Responsibility… It is like asking for Fundamental Rights but u dont want do Fundamental Duties 🙂



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