Killed For Wearing Jeans: Death Is The Price You Pay To Dress As You Please

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The news of a girl killed for wearing jeans in Uttar Pradesh slipped in with the daily headlines this week. With the ease and nonchalance of a banal government press release – without sparking any outrage, without meeting angered demands for urgent action, without serving as a wake-up call, demanding justice for our country’s girls.

Only 17, she was reportedly found hanging from a highway bridge outside of Deoria – left dead there allegedly by her own kin, a grandfather and two uncles. Apparently, there was pressure on the girl for reverting to Indian wear after a brief stay in Ludhiana acquainted her with Western clothes, with jeans catching her fancy. More on the case here.

So rabid was the patriarchal insistence of the girl’s family for a ‘decent’ wardrobe for her that it led to her violent death.

Though we are over seven decades independent, is India truly free from its foundational biases that endanger the lives of women for as basic a right as choice? How different is our society from oppressive religious states that dictate women’s wardrobes to them? Except here, authorities don’t spell the diktats out. Society and its citizens are doing that job pretty well.

Why is there no national rage driving due reform in law, safety and mentality following a girl’s death for picking jeans over salwar?

Girl Killed For Wearing Jeans – How India Is Emboldening Its Rape Culture

What exactly is it about women’s free will over their own lives that threatens our society? Must women live in fear (of nothing less than death, it seems) every time they must choose between their agency and social dictates?

The incident comes only months after former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat’s public jibe at a woman wearing ripped jeans, wherein he questioned her ‘morality’ over her sartorial choices. It comes also only weeks after Uttar Pradesh women’s commission member Meena Kumari urged parents to avoid arming daughters with mobile phones. Only days have passed since two sisters were thrashed in Madhya Pradesh for talking to male cousins and only hours since actor Priya Ahuja was trolled brutally for a simple Instagram photo that dared to show a bra strap.

Each such instance is a nail in the coffin of the rape culture we as a society are emboldening, augmenting, encouraging every single day and by consequence, putting women and girls at risk. What does this say about the safety of women and their constitutional rights in India?

One may argue that the UP girl’s case is being dutifully pursued (one accused has been arrested, a search for the other two is on). That is neither laudatory nor the point. A life has been lost. The question we need to be asking ourselves instead is: What led us here and where are we headed?

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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