A twenty-two-year-old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, was detained by the morality police for breaking the country’s strict dress code. While in custody, Mahsa passed away. It was alleged that Mahsa was beaten in custody, leading to her death. An allegation, the Iranian police have dismissed as baseless.
The incident has sparked protests all over Iran. Women are taking off and burning their headscarves. They are chopping off their hair in public squares. These acts of defiance are against a regime that makes the hijab mandatory for women.
Closer home, in Karnataka, a few months back, young girls in PUC colleges were protesting against the administration’s decision to ban headscarves in the colleges. They were demanding their right to education while following the tenets of their religion. The matter was taken to the Karnataka High court, where the women lost. The matter is now sub-judice in Supreme Court.
In both cases, the issue is the same – dictating to women what to wear
These two incidents might seem like the opposite sides of a spectrum. On one hand, women are taking off their hijabs, and on the other, young girls are fighting to wear them. But if you look closely, the underlying reason for anger and frustration in both groups of women is the same. It is the anger amongst women in being told what (or not) to wear.
For centuries women’s bodies have not been their own. Objectified by men, their bodies have been the spoils of wars in quarrels of men. A woman’s body becomes the repository for the honour of the family.
‘For your own good’
This is the refrain, society and men use, when they dictate the clothes women wear.
It is when mullahs make hijab mandatory or when the college administration doesn’t let headscarved-covered women into college premises.
When women are suffocated under ghunghats for the sake of family pride.
Or when the khap panchayats ban jeans for women and young girls, giving sanskaar as the excuse.
When women are asked to sit with their legs covered modestly while men sprawl with their butt cracks visible.
It is time for society to back off. To stop with the double standards. Stop telling women what clothes to wear. For far too long, we have danced to the tunes of society. It is now time to fight for our right, to live as equals.
We too are human, not dolls to be dressed the way society deems fit.