Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar has furthered the debate around banning burqa by saying that if a law is passed to ban it, then we must do the same to ghoonghat too. “If you want to bring a law banning burqa, I have no objection. But before the last phase of election in Rajasthan, this government should announce a ban on the practice of ghoonghat in that state,” he said, further adding, “I feel that ghoonghat should go and burqa should go. I will be happy.” His comments come in wake of Shiv Sena’s call to follow Sri Lanka’s footsteps and ban burqa.
- Javed Akhtar has said that if we implement a ban on burqa, then we must do so too for ghoonghat as well.
- Any practice which forces restriction on women due to their gender is regressive and needs to go.
- But over centuries many women have internalised these practices and think of them as a part of their identity.
- Doesn’t banning veils also disrespect women’s agency?
Is their liberation as easy as relieving them from having to cover their faces?
Akhtar isn’t wrong, as all patriarchal regressive practices which burden women’s existence with endless boundations need to go. However, amidst all these cries to ban burqa and ghoonghat, no one is paying attention to the voice that matters the most in this entire argument – that of women. What do Indian women want? Is their liberation as easy as relieving them from having to cover their faces? Will a woman who has spent her entire life under a ghoonghat feel comfortable with not being under one? Do all burqa wearing women want to rid their cupboards of regressive practices?
The debate on whether we must ban ghoonghat and burqa is incomplete unless we address these questions. This is as much a question of weeding out patriarchal practices, as much it is about respecting women’s agency. To respect their choices and the lifestyle they want to adapt. Millions of women in this country and outside it put a veil between them and the rest of the world and they have their own valid reason to do so. Perhaps they were conditioned into believing that this practice is a part of womanhood. Or maybe they feel safer under a veil, from the objectifying male gaze, which follows them like a shadow for better part of their lives.
There are a lot of women for whom a veil is a small price to pay to be able to step out of their houses.
In cases where hatred motivates people into asking bans on garments we associate with a certain religion, ethnicity etc, it becomes a matter of identity for women. This is who they are, and giving up on a garment because it makes those around them uncomfortable may feel as if they are giving up on their identity out of fear or pressure. Also, a lot of women for whom a veil is a small price to pay to be able to step put of their houses. If we ban burqas or ghoonghats, won’t it propel patriarchs into restricting women to home? Thus isn’t there a chance that our attempt to liberate them may only end up incurring more rigid dictates for them?
The problem isn’t burqa or ghoonghat here, but the underlying mindset which is so deep-rooted, that even women have internalised it. No amount of bans can deter our patriarchal society from oppressing women. Instead we must support them to win their agency back. Not wearing burqa or ghoonghat is a choice that women must want to make, without any fear of consequences. Respecting women’s agency on our part, also translates into respecting what they want to wear, whether it is shorts, skirts, burqa or veil. So instead of asking should we ban the burqa and ghoonghat or not, we should be asking, are any of our “for” and “against” arguments disrespecting their agency?
Picture Credit : The News Minute
Also Read: Are We Ready To Lower The Age Of Sexual Consent To Sixteen?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.