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Talk is cheap but gratuitous advice is even cheaper it would seem and leading the way in doling it out are some of our elected representatives. M Murli Mohan of the Telugu Desam Party, while participating in a debate on atrocities on women and children, had this advice for women: They should dress in a dignified manner according to Indian culture. Faced with angry women MPs and others, this repository of Indian values apologised for his remarks. He clarified that by dignified dress he meant that women should not wear “modern dresses”. He is not alone in advising women to dress modestly and conduct themselves in an ‘appropriate manner’ so as not to attract any unwelcome attention, which could mean anything from that peculiarly Indian trait of eve-teasing to rape and murder.
Mr Mohan has only articulated what many of his ilk think, that violence against women is invited by the conduct of the women themselves. We can only wonder why then have there been a spate of rapes and murders of small girls. Many women who have been sexually assaulted were not wearing the so-called modern dress that Mr Mohan refers to. It would seem that it is difficult for many men, even women, to accept that violence against women is prompted in part by social conditioning — remember Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ‘boys will be boys’ remark.
The police are invariably tardy when it comes to registering cases of violence against women, in the case of rape, the evidence is often not collected in time and the creaky legal procedure often ends in acquittals after dragging on for years during which testimonies are chopped and changed to the detriment of the victim. It is a pity that the TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu did not immediately censure Mr Mohan.
It would make a great deal of difference if political parties made it clear that they will not tolerate such retrograde views within their ranks. If they are so bothered about Indian culture and tradition, perhaps they would care to point out why rape and murder of women and children are part of it. In any case, Indian culture can do without such advocates as Mr Mohan who have revealed their ignorance with such pathetic attempts to hog the limelight. The job of MPs is to make laws and ensure to the best of their ability that they are enforced. Their unsolicited views on the conduct of women show them in their true colours as people not worthy of the position they occupy. What they need to do is try and acquire an enlightened mindset before telling women not to wear modern dresses, whatever that means.