The poor saps at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila have a very benign view of India. They believe that women are safe if they refrain from baring their legs and so ask that they do not wear short dresses. They also ask couples not to kiss or embrace as these are considered sexual acts in India. Clearly, they have not seen our lumpen lads up close and personal. After causing a flutter, these noble guidelines were taken off the website with some people crying hoarse that these guidelines propagate a stereotyped image of India. But others felt that they make sense in the wake of rise in sexual harassment cases.
This is of a piece with the advice from our moral vigilantes blaming women for attracting unwelcome advances owing to their clothing. But what the ADB overlooks is that most Indian women are normally clad from head to toe in saris and yet find themselves at the receiving end of harassment from men. Age, looks and dress are no deterrents to the determined voyeur or harasser. And we have policemen, who instead of focusing on real crime, make it their mission to hound couples in parks and other public places even if they happen to be sitting a respectable distance apart.
We who have had the misfortune of living in this macho land have seen that there is really is no antidote to harassment short of embarrassing the harasser. When a moralistic crusade was unleashed in Bangalore, spunky women got together and started the pink chaddi campaign. In this, they sent the coloured undergarments to the organisation carrying out attacks on women in bars and other public places after which the cowards ended their ugly campaign. So, the ADB should rid itself of the notion that all it takes is a modest form of dressing to stop attracting unwanted attention. Perhaps, they should consider giving their female employees a martial arts allowance. Nothing like a kick where it hurts most to dampen the ardour of our budding Romeos.