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‘Appropriate Outfit:’ A Ghost Chasing Women from Shores of France to Streets of India | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma. Reuters

New Delhi-An Indian minister has said that women who visit India should not wear skirts for their own safety.

This is considered a reflection of some countries’ rules in imposing control over women’s clothing; starting from France’s shores and ending with the streets of India.

India’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma spurred a wave of rage and resentment when he put a list of the dos and don’ts in the framework of a welcome kit that will be handed out to tourists when they arrive in India, and it will include a card that says, ‘Don’t go out at night alone.’ ‘Don’t wear skirts.’

“These are very small things like, they should not venture out alone at night in small places, or wear skirts, and they should click the photo of the vehicle number plate whenever they travel and send it to friends,” Sharma said.

He added: “For their own safety, foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts… Indian culture is different from the western.”

One day after issuing these statements, the Minister tried to clarify what he meant.

He said that he was speaking “in the context of religious places,” and that he spoke out of “concern.”

“I am a father of two daughters…I would never tell women what they should wear or not,” he said.

“Such a ban is unimaginable, but it is not a crime to be cautious. Different countries issue advisories from time to time, but I never said change anyone’s way of dressing.”

This isn’t the first time that Sharma has stoked controversy with his comments on how to ensure the safety of women.

Last year, he said Indian women shouldn’t go out at night.

“Girls wanting a night out may be all right elsewhere but it is not part of Indian culture,” he said.

Interestingly, speaking in June at an event in Washington, Indian PM Narendra Modi said that 2,000 years ago, artists made sculptures at the Konark Sun Temple resembling the modern fashionable girl who wears skirts and carries a purse.

“There are 2,000-year-old sculptures showing figurines wearing what modern fashionable girls wear,” he said.

He reminded India that skirts are part of Indian culture.

Despite that, with angry and sarcastic tweets, people reminded the minister that telling women what to wear for their own protection is not only a misogynistic approach but also shows the government in bad light.