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.