Do not ban skirts, ban rapists: free woman
Artist statement by Sonia Dhillon–Marty
Don’t Ban Skirt
Yes Freedom of Choice
This project is to add voice to India/South East Asian women’s struggle against oppression, violence and control. Women are oppressed in India to the point that even if a woman is raped, it is not the rapist, but the victim who is considered at fault. After the horrifying event of December 16th in Delhi, India, when a girl was gang raped by six men for two hours in a moving bus, it is an echo of a worldwide protest risen from the conscience of the people, women and men, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, friends and partners. This shockingly brutal act of violence which carried off the life of a young woman, focused the attention of the international public opinion on the current epidemic problem of sexual violence in India, a problem is strictly connected to the female condition in this country. This young woman is still nameless, but her identity is carrying the burden of all the victims of violence to whom due justice is owed, for whom the whole world community must keep asking for political and social conditions to prevent such history repeating itself.
Some of the politicians have come out in public to say that “We need to ban skirts in schools”. This has being very much a shocking statement from countries political leaders. If we suggest that we should ban skirts in schools because that’s the cause of rapes, what are we really saying? What is the real meaning of these words? We are implying that the women are the one who entice the violence by men on them. We are saying that the victim of a crime is the one who creates it. We accept that a man cannot control his acts and use reason. We declare that compulsion, in our society, is considered stronger and more valuable than human rights. We say that men have the right to abuse women. How, in a 21st century, such statements can be made by the biggest democracy in this world? The women are raped all the time in India, and every time, the burden is on the victim. The shame comes after the violence, adding pain to the victims, thus silenced by fear and shame. Rape is a horrifying act of violence that human being should not be able to perpetrate on another human being and actually, such an act is of a savage beast. A lot of rape victims in India end up killing themselves, committing suicide after they have been raped, because of the stigma that they brought the shame on themselves. Often there is the ripple effect felt by the family, in some cases even the father or the mother of the victim ends up killing themselves too. If we suggest that we should ban skirts in schools because that’s what creates rape situations for woman, what are we saying in real? Are we saying that to see means to own? It is hard to understand how this could end the savage aggression. The woman is being blamed more than the man who commits the rape? And how is it different, if somebody is eating and another person just grabs the food to say that he was starving? The real message of this statement is that the victim is the one who crates the crime. We need to focus on how the woman is suppressed by aggressive rowdy men who have no integrity, not by what woman wear. And we need to focus on how society accepts such savage men, how can we stop such horrendous acts of violence, how we can protect women, and how we should break the silence that enshroud this macabre madness.
Rape is used by man to suppress woman especially in India and the Indian subcontinent, where women are under such a oppressive patriarchal societies. It is a tribal mentality, and if we look into how rape is used in India, it is really shocking and depressing. Women are raped to hurt another family. In villages, it is used by a person who wants to intimidate a woman, even in homes. Rape is used to get back to your opponent, to insult a guy, his wife is raped, or his sister is raped, or his mother is raped. Ethnic violence has being translated into sexual violence. Many women were raped during the genocide in 1984 in Delhi, the country’s capital, to shame the Sikhs. And then again, the rape was used in Gujarat against the Muslim women. Rape was used during the partition of India and Pakistan. When is the Indian society going to wake up and say “We are civilized people, and we do not accept sexual abuses and violence? We are going to break the silence”. The protests after the unbearable act of violence occurred on December 16th, show that there is awaking in Indian youth, and we should add our support to the rising voice of Indian people for freedom and justice.
In today’s society, the clothes are expressions of ourselves just like our speech, just like our other democratic choices, the way we are, how we live, and where we live. Clothes are part of our development as much as they are part of our lives. As a society is evolving new technologies are giving us new inventions which are giving us a chance to have clothes that don’t need to be the same as our forefathers wore five centuries ago. The very surprising thing was that some of the politicians started to suggest that Indian women should not be wearing any so called Western clothes. But clothes should not be any different than the variety of food we eat, the cars we drive, the houses we live in, the languages we speak, countries we visit, etc. We’re not eating the same food, and we are not cooking the same way as we were cooking long time ago. We are not using the same utensils to eat or cook as we were using long time ago. So, why clothing should be restricted? In today’s evolved society clothing can be part of our expression because the society has so many inventions to make clothing much more refined, and because people have the right to choose their own way to be. If we say that skirt is Western woman’s dress, so how come only the Western woman has the right to evolve her clothing with the inventions in materials and manufacturing. Otherwise a Western woman should be wearing Victorian clothes as well. India’s indigenous clothes are a piece of cloth worn by indigenous people which often shows woman’s breast. In most of India, the original dress for women is a sari, which is a form of a skirt. Unmarried girls’ sari shows their legs. In the North, it used to be a Gagra (Lehenga), which is a big skirt like a Victorian skirt.
There is another point to be made: where women don’t cover themselves at the same level as we are expected to do in certain countries, are their more or less rapes in these countries? Are there more women raped on the beaches of the Mediterranean were most of the woman are half naked? When a woman is wearing a sari, part of her stomach and back shows. How can we say that it is very provocative? Are there more rapes in indigenous cultures were woman do not cover themselves? If we say a woman’s skirt invites a rapist to come and rape her, than what we will say next time? A woman needs to cover her head? A woman needs to wear a burka even if they are not from Muslim culture? Does it mean that to protect a woman from sexual abuse, we need to hide her identity, infringing on her freedom? Is this the way we want to protect women? Instead of promoting integrity and cultural education, instead of changing the mind of the people to avoid that such savage act of violence are not repeated? Instead of condemning violence, such a shocking statement leads to the acceptance of violence as a social environment.
We need to focus on how the woman is suppressed by aggressive rowdy men who have no integrity, not by what women wear.
It is about time that fashion industry takes on an issue that is so close to making a difference on women’s freedom. So it is about time that we all go out today wearing a message: “ban rapist, do not ban women’s freedom. Ban rapist, don’t ban skirts”. This is a call to all the people who are for humanity. All the women should be able to live a free and self-determined life. It’s about standing for humanity. Let’s all have a skirt, either by wearing a skirt or wearing a “the skirt” T-shirt and lets the world know that we are for human freedom and human rights, we are against violence and abuses, we are against suppression and repression, as everyone in this world should be. Let the politicians know that we serious on achieving a true democracy based on true humanitarian values, here and now. Freedom for women, freedom for all.