India has come a long way in women having the freedom to wear the type of clothes they like. Some compulsions remain, of course, enforced by parents and families, but these too are reduced to a very few, particularly in urban areas. The trend, however, has been towards greater ‘permissiveness’. This is rooted in the acceptance within society that women have the same rights and freedoms, as well as responsibilities. This is the general trend worldwide, with a few exceptions. And it is these exceptions that underline the importance of the hard-won freedoms.
The death of Mahsa Amini, the 22 year old woman brutally ‘arrested’ by the Iranian ‘morality police’ for not wearing a hijab, has highlighted the plight of those who have to live under patriarchal religious laws in countries that are considered ‘beyond the pale’ by the international community. Because of the shield provided by religious dogma, the women of countries like Iran and Afghanistan have been abandoned by humanity. Afraid they would be accused of Islamophobia, leaders and societies turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed on women, which is nothing short of criminal if looked at in the historical perspective. Indeed, as seen in India, all the agitating is being done against reform in the name of minority rights. As has been witnessed in Karnataka, the hijab has actually been portrayed as a symbol of women’s freedom of choice in the attempt to impose it on school uniforms!
Incidents such as the recent one in Iran should awaken women, particularly those who follow Islam, to the dangers that lie in accepting practices that inhibit their natural freedoms. It is also important for them to understand that there is nowhere in their holy book any imposition of the hijab or the burqa. This is why the pro-hijab lobby is being unable to find any traction in the courts. The injunction that men should respect the modesty of women does not imply locking them away from the world! It requires men to give respect to women’s requirements, which have, of course, changed over the centuries. In the present day, the requirement is for all members of society to march in step without discrimination, no matter which section of society or gender they belong to, thereby fully realising their potential. Any other interpretation should be strongly opposed at every level of society, if there is to be progress and peace.