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Acid Attack Threats Indian Girls with Jeans

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Download “From August the 20th, jeans will be banned for girls. Any girls found wearing jeans will be attacked with acid.”  

That’s the threat written in bold red ink on large handwritten posters on the walls of Ranchi city in the Indian state of Jharkhand.

The threat comes from a new group called Jharkhand Liberation Organisation.

India is already the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in, according to last year’s survey conducted by the Thomas Reuters foundation.

Shaikh Azizur Rahman finds out if the threat stop girls and women from wearing jeans.

A group of boys and girls are on their way to college.

The girls are wearing jeans, just like the boys.

19-year old college student in Ranchi Meenakhsi Singh loves to wear jeans.

“As do many other girls in my college, I wear jeans. Compared to other traditional dresses, I find them more comfortable and easy to manage.”

But they might not have the freedom to use jeans after August the 20th.

According to the posters put up earlier this month, women in Jharkhand state will be attacked with acid if they’re found wearing jeans.

The threat comes from a new group called Jharkhand Liberation Organisation.

Police haven’t heard about the group before. Many believe it’s a pro-Maoist group from the use of red ink in the posters. Police are still investigating the matter.

But Meenakshi is now afraid.

“They are saying that we have to wear traditional dress like salwar kameez and have to cover our head with scarf. I shall feel very uncomfortable to follow their dress code. I can’t understand why jeans are indecent in their eyes. But I am really afraid of their threat. Maybe I have to stop wearing jeans. Acid attacks have ruined lives of many girls in India.”

Acid attack on women is not new in Indian society.

Many women have been attacked and disfigured with acid after they refused marriage proposals.

Similar threat also surfaced in Uttar Pradesh. Last month some village councils banned girls from wearing jeans.

Village leader Sohanbiri Devi says jeans provoking sexual assault.

“The body of a girl gets revealed and it will trigger trouble for her. When she goes out wearing jeans, boys begin trailing them with bad intention. We shall take actions against girls who defy our order. We shall tell the parents and throw them out of our community.”

Anti-jeans threats have been pouring from different parts of India – especially the northern and eastern states.

Jharkhand’s women and child development minister Vimla Pradhan even suggested college girls not to wear “vulgar dresses”.

Rights activist Shabnam Hasmi explains what she sees as the root of the problem.

“There is one India which lives in the 21st century and there is the other which is still living in feudal ages. Due to the communication revolution the modern ideas reach every corner of the country. And gender justice is one such idea which has reached the people across the nation. On the other hand, the patriarchal and feudal society, which still wants to hold on to the age-old custom of looking at women as unequal and seeing their role only inside homes, keep on opposing any progress by them. The recent diktats which we have seen banning of jeans, or using of mobiles in public, they basically indicate such deeper patriarchal society by itself that exists in India.”

24-year old Parbati Murmu from West Bengal says she feels safer after she stops wearing jeans.

“I used to wear jeans and T-shirts before. But it attracted too much of attention from boys. Many boys teased me and even tried to molest me in the village. I stopped wearing tight jeans and switched to the traditional salwar kameez. Now I draw less attention from boys. Jeans expose a woman’s body too much and make her unsafe.”        

Ranjana Kumari is the director of New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research.

She says there’s no connection betweeen what woman wears and becomes victim of sexual attack.

“Whatever the provocation they are talking about is not because of the clothes. It's in the minds and eyes of the men and boys who look at the women in the way they do because they have never been stopped. Harassing, eve teasing, sexually harassing women, eve teasing etc are really in the frame of the way they think.”

After the posters appeared on city walls, the NGO Wake Up India Foundation organised a protest march in Ranchi.

Waving banners, the girls shout that a change of mindset is needed – not a dress code.

They were also calling for action against the group behind the anti-jeans posters in Jharkhand.

Ranjana Kumari from New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research says  jeans are practical.

“It also gives you more freedom in terms of your own body, your own thinking. It's not just clothes. It's the way the girls are getting more access to market, to education, becoming much more independent, much more confident. Jeans is not just a dress, it's just not what they wear, but it's also the whole persona that reflects in those clothes. The declaration on jeans is absolutely absurd, it's mindless. It's very stupid to talk like that in a time and the society where the girls are marching ahead.”

20-year old engineering student Anindita Chatterjee says she will continue wearing jeans.

“I live in a modern era. I have freedom to do or wear whatever I like. Country’s constitution gives me this right. I love jeans and I find it convenient to my lifestyle. Some men who are mentally sick, feel threatened by the advancement of women want attack women picking up an excuse of jeans. They want to keep women in pathetic condition. I don’t care for such anti-jeans threats.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 August 2012 17:19 )  

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