So. Women. Do you know how much skin you cover?

Hot on the heels of the top cop in Andhra Pradesh, DGP Dinesh Reddy making a statement about rape cases rising because of women dressing provocatively comes this from a minister in charge of women and child welfare.
In today’s newspapers, the Karnataka minister of women and child welfare made this enlightening statement, “women should know how much skin they cover.”
The mind immediately thought about the children who are raped, boys and girls, the infants who are raped, the mentally challenged, the elderly, the bedridden, the fully clad, the ones in burqa or ghunghat. By these preposterous standards, these should have never been victims of rape.
They have not been the first. A Canadian police officer triggered off the global awareness movement called Slutwalk when he exhorted women to stay safe from rape by not dressing like sluts. The Delhi police chief told women in so many words to not step out of home unescorted at night, the Delhi chief minister apparently stated something on the same lines, and then apparently attempted a retraction.
This disgusts me not because this is reflective of the shift the blame to the victim mentality which plagues us, but because these are people in senior positions in law enforcement and policy making.
Let’s get some statistics and studies in right here to shed some light on the motives of rapists:
In India, a rape is committed every 54 minutes.
More facts: Uttar Pradesh topped the crime rate in the country in 2010, according to latest statistics released by the National Crime Record Bureau. The state registered 33.9% of the crime reported in 2010, followed by Andhra Pradesh (12%) and Tamil Nadu (10.4%), according to the NCRB report for 2010. Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of rapes while Andhra Pradesh registered highest number of crime against women, which included molestation and sexual harassment. (Read more here)
And let us not forget we have the dubious distinction of being at fourth spot in this global study on the most dangerous countries to be a woman in.
We did some fair amount of reading up and research during the http://www.vawarenessmonth.wordpress.com that we did during October 2011. And the statistics were frightening.
Most rapists rape not because they get provoked seeing a woman wearing provocative clothing. They rape because they have opportunity and believe they will get away with it. Most rapes happen not with strangers but with someone trusted, family and friends, in fact only six percent of rapes happen with strangers. The men who raped strangers through force and coercion looked for a victim who seemed vulnerable and uncertain. Interestingly, clothes were only perceived as a factor in terms of ease of removal. Not in terms of provocation. The provocation factor is all in the head.
Let’s get this clear right here and right now. Rape is not about the victim. Rape is about the rapist. Blaming the victim and shifting the blame on the victim doesn’t lessen the enormity of the crime.
Women have been raped when they have been wearing most unprovocative clothing. Pushing the guilt of being raped onto the victim lifts the blame squarely off the perpetrator’s shoulders. Much like our innocent rishis of yore who were tempted and seduced by dancing apsaras. She asked for it. Remember the Jodie Foster movie The Accused?
Finally, this is what the truth is, from a victim. “I was sober; hardly scantily clad … I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent — I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There have been times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that might have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn’t raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.
The difference is not what the victim is wearing, and that she was ‘asking for it” it is the presence of the man with the intent to rape and who was prowling for a victim. Any victim. Regardless of what she was or wasn’t wearing. The fault is not in what a woman wears, but in the male gaze. Walk down any street in any Indian city, fully clothed, as a girl, as a woman, you need not even be very attractive, just being female will do. I have seen saree and salwar kameez clad women being ogled at and molested on the streets.
Jaclyn Friedman, author of “What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety” says, and she’s researched this long and hard enough to make this statement, “The reality is, there’s zero evidence linking how ‘sexy’ a woman is dressed with her likelihood of being raped. None.”
So let’s have some police who patrol better, conviction rates that are higher and sentences that are stricter as well as politicians who are more sensitive to women’s issues and rights handling these departments, because that is where the change will come from. Not from us women covering ourselves up from head to toe.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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50 Responses to So. Women. Do you know how much skin you cover?

  1. Lalit Ambardar says:

    Thought provoking piece.
    It is so ironic that Indian society boasting of more Goddesses than Gods remains unsafe for women.
    Gender sensitivity grooming must begin early in life & women need to be trained mentally & physically to be able to face the menace.

    Like

  2. Jyothi says:

    Great Post !!
    Isn’t it so typical that the suggestions to cover up come only from MEN…irrespective of how educated they are or what post they hold!

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Sadly today’s papers has the Head of the Sexual harassment panel of Bangalore University suggesting a full sleeved blouse and saree dress code for women. To prevent rapes. She, a woman.

      Like

  3. airborne says:

    Asking women to cover up to avoid rape is like handing an M-seal tube to fix a breaking dam.

    Like

  4. Sayantani says:

    Totally agree about your view about the role of the police, Kiran. Had written something similar myself – available at http://www.musingsofasolitarymind.blogspot.com/

    Like

  5. Hard-hitting post Kiran, and exactly what’s needed in the face of the reigning “thinking” on rape.

    Like

  6. Ruchi says:

    Democracy gives right to everyone, irrespective of their gender, to dress the way they want…. And “skin-show” shall be relative… and shall have different meaning to each of us.. e.g for a woman who wears a burqa , wearing a saree shall also be counted as a skin-show for her and so on…. In my opinion, there are hell lot of other issues to be taken care of in a country where a good percentage of population is still under BPL, where every 50 minutes a rape is reported, where pollution and population have reached all time highs, & Literacy levels have adorned us a Rank among the lowest … Shouldn’t ministers be paying some attention towards these and not on questioning someone’s dressing style and putting the entire blame on the victim and not on their failure to provide the most basic thing expected out of them – security and safety ????

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Absolutely. Surely this is blaming the patient rather than curing the disease? Provide us with safety, stringent punishments and rules rather than police our dressing.

      Like

  7. Dew says:

    This is so true! It is so disheartening to read this! People who can make a difference making such statements is very disturbing! I wonder if they have ever experienced what we women go through every single day? So much so that it has become second nature!

    They must be made to go through what most women in India do – Always walk with eyes only on the road in front, no smiles not even eye contact with anyone else lest we invite trouble, no leisurely pace of walking (if at all you need to walk) – the walk must be to take us from point A to point B with no time to pause or stop, while walking bags must be in front, arms and elbow poised for action if needed, ignore any comments / whistles or other such things directed at you and then finally breathe a sigh of relief on reaching your destination. And of course, what you wear is the concern of the entire household and the neighbors. its like stepping out into the battlefield every single day!

    And if you were unfortunate enough to be a victim of molestation, harassment or rape, it would be because you dressed wrong, or were out late, or were drinking etc. bottom line, it is you who is at fault whichever we look at it. Some even give reasons that are well researched – higher frustration levels amongst the youth today, increasing number of women who are out working etc! There is no respite! As a woman, there is no respite!

    No one wants to look at what has been done to dissuade anyone from committing these crimes! How about more stringent punishments? How about faster justice?

    We are ranked 4th worst place for women in the WORLD!! It is a statistic of such shame, that I pause before indicating to people from other countries that I am from India! India is not just about our IT and Taj, it is also about how unsafe it is for women!

    It’s a sad sad day when statements such as this are made and go unpunished!

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Absolutely, Dew, the fact that these guardians of our morality are still in their posts is a clear indication that their opinions have the tacit consent of the majority.

      Like

  8. Arvind Lomsh says:

    A pc. of advice on rape is main issue fr last some days.Well i partly agree with you ppl,I request you to write something on the psychology of rapist.It’s over generalization of a very very serious & complicated issue

    Like

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  10. This is so chilling. With all the facts that you have put together, it makes me realise that a woman today is so unsafe, regardless of where she goes, what she wears, and how she looks.

    I do hope more pro-active measures are taken to control the incidences of rape, rather than playing a blame game.

    Like

  11. Ipsita says:

    Agree wholeheartedly.

    Like

  12. Shehla says:

    Very well-founded and valid arguments. If only our politicians and police chiefs read such stuff. Being properly clad and not stepping out at night are only precautionary measures that I follow in Delhi out of my own good sense- these cannot be used as excuses or solutions by protectors of the land. Thanks for writing this piece, KM.

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Shehla, if you see the Gurgaon molestation video, the girl was covered head to toe, and she was the one hiding her face like she had committed a crime. Ergo, this is a law and order situation, not, repeat, a provocative dressing related situation. Those who were groping her got off scotfree. Shameful.

      Like

  13. rohanabstractedly says:

    Sooner these jerks will also say “Smile may lead to seduction”.. Doubt whether they even follow what they say in their personal lives..

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      It is sickening. This is why Indian women rarely smile when they’re alone in public spaces. Some lout may take that as an invitation.

      Like

  14. Provocative dress does excites sexual desire than some attires which are not so provocative – there is no denying the fact. But what is wrong here? the animal & bird world do have their own ways of enticing the opposite sex. Men also use sexy dress to impress. but the result is RAPE!!! Unbelievable! Those responsible people in office any where in the world should forthwith be sacked from those offices in a summery decision as they in fact have defended, validated, justified, encouraged& even aided the act of raping. They, Andhra Pradesh DGP Dinesh Reddy, the author who coined the word ‘Slutwalk’ and such fellows shold be convicted of the crimes I just mentioned here or otherwise NO rapist should be punished. IF Reddy the slutwolk men are good enough why should the rapist be bad? They are quite justufied. is int?
    Well as fer as rape or for that matter any other heinous/evil crimes are concerned the incidence is a barometer of ‘how the Govt is running the society. Higher the people’s support & honor on the administrators/Govt
    lower such crimes. Legal system must be so amended to award capital punishment to the rapists and at the same time such DGPs must not be left loose to poison the society.

    Like

  15. adnan ashraf says:

    Going through all ur facts and surveys,one thing strikes my mind..if the women attire,in our society, has no role to blame,then what must be the thing that pushed those non-humane men to commit such lowest grade of crime?
    For a moment,imagine;men not getting anything whch attracts..may b things turn out to b diffrnt..think lil deeply!

    Like

  16. Whilst India is clearly not progressive in this regard, I would like to be able to say that western countries (like Australia where I come from) are way ahead, I don’t believe this is true. Whilst more progressive than India, I have seen many find more subtle ways of saying the same things. Its a very sad state of affairs.

    I believe education and awareness are the key to changing attitudes, so here’s to more pieces like this.

    Like

  17. Nantha kumar. says:

    DGP sir, i agree about ur thinking.
    Today girls dress culture are very very bad. Somebody told that why you see our dress, just see our faces but practically it is not possible because we are not a budha or viveganantha. I think after some year they will with only innerwear then they wil told that just see our face. We should ban this culture now in this initial stage.

    Like

    • n says:

      also, we should require men to lower their heads respectfully whenever a woman passes in front of them, because women are incarnations of our great goddesses and men are supposed to be worship them.

      If a man even looks at a woman with bad thoughts in his mind, he should be lashed promptly in public, so he will not show disrespect towards goddesses in the future. That’s how we shall ensure that our great Indian culture is safe.

      Like

      • n says:

        Corrected my previous comment ….

        also, we should require men to lower their heads respectfully whenever a woman passes in front of them, because women are incarnations of our great goddesses and men are supposed to worship them.

        If a man even raises his eye to look at a woman he should be lashed promptly in public, so he will not show disrespect towards goddesses in the future. That’s how we shall ensure that our great Indian culture is safe.

        (ridiculous and unreasonable thinking deserves a similar response)

        Like

  18. Nantha kumar. says:

    Girls only can change it. Or parents must understand about this dangerous culture. Otherwise we cant stop.

    By.
    Nantha kumar
    Chennai.

    Like

    • n says:

      also, we should require men to lower their heads respectfully whenever a woman passes in front of them, because women are incarnations of our great goddesses and men are supposed to worship them.

      If a man even raises his eye to look at a woman he should be lashed promptly in public, so he will not show disrespect towards goddesses in the future. That’s how we shall ensure that our great Indian culture is safe.

      (ridiculous and unreasonable thinking deserves a matching response)

      Like

    • Who will give a lashing to whom. Is this earth a paradise or a hell where such actions, I was told when I was just a baby,are taken. I do not understand the meaning “Should be” – as if God will come & take action!!!

      Like

  19. Sunita says:

    Well said Kiran. Women feel totally unsafe anywhere they go. Even the educated lot hardly cares what happens. When it comes to the police patrol, it would help if there are strong headed police who know their responsibility first and not those who join the gang of miscreants.

    As a part of a women’s group, I’ve been actively involved in conducting awareness sessions to parents of school and college going children and I surely hope there will be some change, someday.

    Like

  20. Fab says:

    Great post, Kiran. The comment about women dressing appropriately has been oft repeated by several ‘guardians’ of our society, but when the hell is someone going to make a statement like “It is time for the men of our country to treat women with more respect. Kindly keep it in your pants so that half the country can walk around in dignity.”

    I blogged about similar sentiments here: http://shocksandshoes.blogspot.com/2011/07/besharam.html

    Like

  21. Harini says:

    This is sad…really!! My girlfriend works for a corporate office and she has both male and female collegues commenting if she wears jeans and a sleveless top and regard her as a ‘loose’ character.. I was shocked to hear this…Forget raping, see how narrow minded we are even in this! I dont see any hope in many people changing their views on this issue…and the worst part is there are women and girls who feel the same way as well, which is heartbreaking!!

    Like

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  23. Jenni says:

    Very nice post.

    “fault is not in what a woman wears, but in the male gaze. Walk down any street in any Indian city, fully clothed, as a girl, as a woman, you need not even be very attractive, just being female will do. I have seen saree and salwar kameez clad women being ogled at and molested on the streets”

    It’s an inherent male thing. Just that it’s controlled by mental conditioning in some … while in some it lies like a dormant volcano about to erupt at the slightest provocation.

    I am not sure if patrol/police would help in a country like ours where people have grown to learn only how to abuse their powers
    http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_police-constable-friend-arrested-in-mumbai-for-rape_1449372

    What can help is only extensive education.

    Ok, what I am about to say next may seem borderline shallow and would call for some debate, but a lot also has to do with the manner in which women are portrayed in Indian cinema as well. Our item numbers for instance that scream women are probably just asking for it…

    Look at Munni Badnaam Hui… a t r o c i o u s!

    Of course rapes exist everywhere regardless of the presence or absence of item numbers… nevertheless….

    Like

  24. JS says:

    The Y chromosome has very few redeeming qualities…and unfortunately there is no cure for it.

    Like

  25. I like to make a point here rape is not only asexual crime. it has other dimension to it & that is domination of male over female in human kind. this can be found in religious tenets / scriptures even. in early period of history after a battle / war the victors used to kill the men folks of the vanquished but used to take away the women folks along with all the wealth as booty – is a point. In the film Bandit queen of shekhar kapoor this part of domination is dealt with to some extent. The fight for the cause will be stretched & strong one. And this is a battle we should fight hard.
    thanks Kiran, you along with others have started it. I like to contribute my might

    Like

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