The skirt and its length has been an issue more often than not in our country. From celebs likeSania Mirza and Katrina Kaif to schoolgirls across states, many have gotten into trouble over this piece of clothing. And it isn’t only the desi moral police tying itself up in knots over the issue – it seems to unite people across countries.
Bans in schools across India
In Rohtak in March, a right wing educational institution’s management prohibited girls from Classes VIII to XII from wearing skirts, citing “security reasons.” At least five Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools, run by the Kurukshetra-based Hindu Shiksha Samiti (HSS), would implement the dress code from the current academic session, they said. One of the schools’ principals said that the decision had been taken in consultation with parents who endorsed those reasons, and that they’d received complaints about some girls wearing short skirts.
The DAV group of schools called for a ban on skirts this year as part of the uniform, as they think tunics or short skirts ‘invite unwanted attention’. The director of the DAV group has said that they have taken the step to make children aware of our culture and tradition. Female students from Class VIII onwards would be required to wear only salwar-kameez with a bandi (jacket). “We’ve done this to ensure girls dress decently to school and follow a discipline,” said LR Saini, director of the DAV group.
In December 2012, BJP legislator Banwari Lal Singhal suggested a ban on skirts as the school uniform for girls. Singhal wrote a letter to Rajasthan chief secretary CK Mathew, demanding that skirts be replaced by trousers to keep female students away from “men’s lustful gazes.”
In Manipur last year, six student bodies, which included the All Manipur Students Union, Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur and Manipur Students Federation, issued a diktat to prohibit school and college students from wearing clothes above the knee. In 2007, the outlawed People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), an Islamic outfit active in the state, banned Muslim schoolgirls and college students from wearing frocks and skirts. The Manipuri rebel group Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup, (KYKL), in 2001, asked girls to wear the ankle-length traditional phaneks instead of western wear. The reason for enforcing the wearing of the phanek was to ban “indecent dresses” and also for moral and traditional reasons. KYKL even warned that women of the state who do not wear the traditional phaneks could even ‘face death penalty’!
After being pressurised by a student body in the state, all schools banned short skirts and tight pants in 2011. The ban was imposed to ‘promote decency and discipline’ among the students. If caught violating the ban for the first time, a fine of `300 was to be charged. If the rule was violated again, the fine would increase to `500. And if the students were found repeating it, then they would be expelled from the school.
In 2012 in Ghaziabad district, the panchayat in a Jat-dominated region demanded that girls should wear salwar-kurta from the sixth standard. The president of Jat Mahasabha was reported as saying, “The girls will wear salwar-kurta from sixth standard onwards. We will speak to the managements of the schools and will make sure the order is implemented strictly.” They didn’t mention the reason for it but we assume it, again, has something to do with ‘decency’. The panchayat even warned that ‘severe punishment’ would be handed out if the diktat wasn’t followed.
Celebs in trouble
Sania Mirza – In 2005, a group of Muslim clerics issued a fatwa demanding that the tennis player should cover herself more on the field. They said that her outfits were a negative influence on young girls. Their grouse was that her skirts and T-shirts had slogans like ‘Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History’ and ‘I’m Cute, No Shit’, which were ‘un-Islamic’. Even though Sania had to give in to the clerics’ demands at that time, later, she appeared at the 2007 French Open in a skirt. “How I dress is a very personal thing, so give me a break. I’m just trying to have some fun. If I have something to say I can speak, can’t I? I don’t have to speak through what I wear,” she had said.
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