Thursday, August 02, 2007

Be safe, don't exist

The Hindu, July 29, 2007

The Other Half

The Delhi police have given a new twist to the old tale of women’s safety in cities. In their desire to “protect” women especially from northeast India, they have issued a strange booklet. Titled “Security tips for Northeast s tudents/visitors in Delhi”, the booklet sets out tips that are supposed to help women from northeast India feel safe on the streets of India’s capital.

For the uninformed, this might sound an unusual step for the capital’s police force to take. But Delhi is the place where several students from northeast India have been raped in recent years. The booklet suggests indirectly that this could be because of the way the women dress. So once again, the onus for remaining safe has fallen on the women.

The booklet, with an introduction by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Robin Hibu, who is an IPS officer from the Northeast, is remarkable for its language and its contents. On a dress code it suggests: “When in rooms do as Roman does” (whatever that means). Under security tips: “Revealing dress to be avoided.” “Avoid lonely road/ bylane when dressed scantily”. And “dress according to sensitivity of the local population.” The fact that for the male half of the local population, your being a woman is enough provocation to tease, fondle or attack irrespective of how you are dressed does not seem to count.

Inappropriate and offensive

I have only read excerpts from the booklet. For all its good intentions, it is clearly inappropriate and offensive to the sensibilities of women from Northeast India. Not only does it give gratuitous and useless advice to women but it also proceeds to tell everyone from northeast India how they should behave in Delhi. How else can one explain a sentence that reads: “Bamboo shoot, Akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating ruckus in neighbourhood”. Smelly dishes creating a “ruckus”? This would be amusing if it were not culturally offensive.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

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