A completely regressive and sexist statement came from Union Minister for tourism, Mahesh Sharma on Sunday when he called out to foreign women tourists to not wear skirts and take a stroll at night when in small cities and towns.
“For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts… Indian culture is different from the western (culture),” said Sharma while addressing the press during his recent visit to Agra on Sunday. He added that this advice of dos and don’ts will be a part of advisory pamphlet to be distributed to foreigners as they step on the Indian lands, as reported by TOI.
The minister later clarified that the comment was made in context with religious places and it was only ‘out of concern’ that he made the remark.
“I am a father of two daughters…I would never tell women what they should wear or not. Our culture is Atithi Devobhava (the guest is almost like God). Such a ban is unimaginable, but it is not a crime to be cautious. Different countries issue advisories from time to time, but I never said change anyone’s way of dressing,” told Sharma, the Minister of State for Culture, as reported by NDTV.
Culture & Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma advises tourists not to wear skirts.
Which means he understands neither culture nor tourism.
— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) August 29, 2016
France shd send all burkinis it confiscates to our Tourism Minister who'll turn India into a Hindu Saudi Barbaria https://t.co/o5XudSXzh3
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) August 29, 2016
If #India wants (and it can get) 100 million tourists a year one day, it won't happen through a tourism minister who doesn't get #tourism.
— HindolSengupta (@HindolSengupta) August 29, 2016
Also read: Jain temple in Ujjain bans entry of women in ‘western dress‘
His clarification apart, Sharma’s concerns for safety of tourists seems to be flawed. After all, as far as safety of women is concerned during night, shouldn’t the security level be increased rather than preventing women from taking a walk at night and advising them how to dress? Forget foreign women, in many Indian cities, Indian women themselves are not free or safe enough to take a walk at night or pull an all-nighter. Of course, if a woman does attempt to venture out and gets into trouble, the blame is laid squarely on her shoulders. And if ministers themselves make statements like the above, then one can expect little from law enforcement agencies. Of course these remarks met with some caustic comments.
Women had greater freedom to wear clothes of their choice in Vedic times than they have in Modi times
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) August 29, 2016
Also read: Jadavpur women have no shame so can’t be molested: seriously ABVP?
This is not the first statement made by Sharma advising women on how to behave. Last year in September, he made a similar comment when he stated that, “Girls wanting a night out may be all right elsewhere but it is not part of Indian culture.”
In another incident, Kerala Education Minister P K Abdu Rabb viewed girls and boys sitting next to each other in colleges in a bad light. But in his opinion, they can sit next to each other if they are sitting on different benches. As crazy as it sounds, this is exactly what Kerala Education Minister said.
Another comment was made by Mulayam Singh Yadav, one of the gems from his several obnoxious comments was that he said that, “What can I say about the kind of women who will enter parliament, The wives and daughters of officers and businessmen, who invite whistles from boys.”
One might be tempted to laugh off these comments as foolhardy, but it’s a dangerous situation if the custodians of law and policy have such regressive views and apparently have no qualms about sharing them either. Time for a gender equality class perhaps for them?
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Feature Image credit: India