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Regulated By The Society

Society and the State have regulated the clothing, character, needs and duties of girls throughout the world since the earliest times. In other words, women have always been judged by society on the basis of clothes they wear. Society has always determined their attire often through the fear of god or religion, and also through Moral Policing. There are various chapters in the Rulebook of Dress Code for girls… some clothes are considered as feminine, while some are apt for sex-workers, and few for women belonging to aristocrat families. It is also mentioned in the Rulebook when and where a particular garment may or may not be worn; and how much of the female body part will be covered, and how much could be kept exposed.

In a traditional society, death could be the punishment for deviating from these rules. In 2021, the grandfather and uncles of the 17-year-old Neha Paswan, a resident of the Savreji Kharg village of Deoria District in northern Indian Province of Uttar Pradesh, had beaten the girl with sticks, leading to her death, for wearing jeans. After the assault, her body had been found hanging from a bridge over the locally-flowing Gandak river. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurd woman Mahsa Amini died under questionable circumstances on September 16, 2022. The Guidance Patrol (the religious Morality Police) of Iran arrested Amini for not wearing the hijab in accordance with Government standards. The Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic claimed that before transferring her to the hospital, Amini had a heart attack at a Police Station, collapsed, and slid into a coma. However, eyewitnesses, including women who were detained with Amini, reportedly said that she was severely beaten up, and died as a result of Police brutality. Such rules still exist in North Korea or Sudan. Many, even in a progressive society, believe that dress code is one of the reasons behind sexual harassment of girls.

It is not that the Society or the State has always wanted to control women by using force. Often, they control women by implementing various strategies. A couple had planned to get married at New York City Hall in 1974. However, the local dress code created trouble for them. As per the rule, the bride would have to wear a skirt or gown at the wedding. However, this couple was unwilling to follow that rule. Standing in the courtroom, the bride told the judge that it was up to her whether to wear a skirt or trousers at her wedding. She said that she was more comfortable in trousers, and she should be allowed to wear them at her wedding. For his part, the groom told the judge that marriage is a sacred bond in which two persons are tied together in equal rights and conditions. Hence, he wanted their wedding dress to be the same. The groom also urged the court to allow his bride-to-be to wear the same shirt and trousers as him. As the District Court ruled against the would-be couple, they moved the Federal Court. Incidentally, the Federal Court, too, ruled not in favour of the couple. In the midst of the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movement, the diktat of New York City Hall on brides’ traditional dress on their wedding day was upheld.

This way, the State and Society have successfully established dress code as the main yardstick to judge the status, as well as existence, of women. On the other hand, the society has avoided this particular issue, terming it as a minor one, when required. Majority of the political parties believe that there are lot of important issues, such as terrorism, poverty, inflation, etc,. in the contemporary world. Hence, it would not be appropriate to think about the dress code for women.

It seems the death of Neha Paswan or Mahsa Amini for violating the dress code shall remain a minor issue only. People don’t even think about it while electing public representatives to the Legislature. No one dares to say: “Life is mine, my choice of clothes, too!

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