Yesterday on March 08, the World was busy wishing Women — Happy Women’s Day. The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi also utilized the occasion and conducted, among other things, an interactive session with the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao beneficiaries in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. Have a look at the picture from that interactive session:
In the interactive event, women are seen dressed up in saree or some traditional dress. It is difficult to say whether the attendees followed some Official protocol OR; the women dressed up extra attentively for the special occasion, as is a usual practice for weddings or some other special social event. But still the uniformity in dressing up strikes attention. As even Indian weddings don’t have such uniformly dressed up guests.
Yesterday, we also got to know about the Rajasthan Government’s order asking all the state-run colleges to introduce a dress code which will be implemented from the next academic session. As per the Rajasthan government letter dated March 4 2018, the new dress code in colleges for boys will include: shirt, pants, jersey (in winters), shoes, socks and belt. While for Girls in such Rajasthan Government run colleges, the dress code will be: salwar-suit, chunni, sweater or cardigan, saree, shoes/sandals and socks. Colleges, which already have a dress code, have also been asked to specify their uniforms.
Now lets look the two events taking place in Rajasthan yesterday together.
The event where the Prime Minister of India chooses to meet the beneficiaries of his Flagship programme “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” has all women decked up in traditional attire. No one is saying, one expects women in jeans, T-shirts etc there. But why bind people with a strict protocol or why expect them to dress up in a certain way at those places, such as a College, where such a rule is not necessary?
It is very problematic that the event where PM promoted “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” has all attendees in some attire which PM’s political party led Rajasthan Government plans to implement in its Colleges!
Why does the Government want to see college going girls or women strictly in a saree blouse or a salwar kameez?
In a college, where young men and women vote to elect their representatives are being told what to wear and what not. Isn’t it surprising?
Ideally, if the Government and our PM wants to improve Sex-ratio (number of females per 1000 males) then he must directly address killing of unborn girl child. If a girl child is saved in a mother’s womb, then no one will have to bother about or focus too much about what they wear later on. The apprehension about the present Government’s too much focus on what Girls/women must wear and what not, are further strengthened by reasoning put forward by Rajasthan Govt’s Higher Education Minister Kiran Maheswari, who said this to Indian Express,
“It will be better if we have some uniform which will help us identify who is a college student and who is an outsider”
If the Government wants a dress code just to block outsiders from entering the College premises, then checking the i-Card of every person entering the college premises will be far more effective. But the present Government(s) will not do that as they’re working under the very slogan : Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.
To conclude, it will be repetitive now to advise the Government NOT to throttle(end) the freedom of expression of young women. It will be repetitive to advice the government to focus too much on how women in colleges dress up. It will be repetitive because women themselves must know that — Anyone who wants to end a woman’s freedom begins by telling them what to wear and what not to. And anyone who begins at censoring a woman’s clothing, ends up telling the preferred gender of a baby in a woman’s womb.