Ripping It Open: The Denim Dilemma In India

Jeans

Before writing on something that is evidently contemptible and voiced alike by many, I came across a list of incidents that were distressingly similar to one another. These stories were finely patched together by shame that were forced into their foundations, because as a society, we love toying with morality.

In 2013, a neighbourhood turned bloody over a piece of cloth. It so happened that a 20-year-old girl wearing jeans in Aligarh got embroiled in a controversy when her neighbour passed some crude remark at her. When her parents, who had been tolerating these trite jibes objected, the woman said her remark was directed at youth in general. The girl could not stomach this insult and told her neighbour to mind her business. The apparent ‘audacity’ enraged the neighbour, who barged into the girl’s house with goons and attacked the family. The girl’s mother lost her life in the duel.

Way back in 2009, a woman was cornered and assaulted by a group of men in Bengaluru for wearing a ‘western outfit’. She was returning home when a few men on bikes blocked her way and abused her in Kannada. When the girl retaliated by slapping one of them, she was punched in the face.

The list of similar tormenting episodes is endless. Our prudent politicians opine that jeans cause rape. That, women who are wearing something even remotely denim invite trouble. So for their own safety, they must proscribe the sturdy-cotton textile, because evil lurks in every corner.

When our beloved, sagacious politicians give so much thought to our safety, I am certain they are aware of Denim Day as well. The USA mark the day every year to campaign against sexual violence. On April 27, the country comes together wearing denim to protest against and raise awareness on sexual violence and safety. On this day, people are encouraged to wear the cloth to show their solidarity for survivors of violence.

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In Rome in 1992, a driving instructor was accused of raping an 18-year-old. The girl told her parents who helped her take the case to the court. The Italian Supreme Court, however, overturned the rapist’s conviction because the survivor had worn tight jeans when the alleged incident happened. The court argued that since she was in tight jeans, she must have helped the man remove them, thereby showing consent. The ruling had rocked the country where widespread protests took place. The Denim Day commemoration was triggered thence.

The very idea that denim causes rape and other acts of violence is ancient and deep-seated. It is this ignorance that women across the world have been fighting against, since ages. It is disappointing that arguments against an act of violence saturate on a piece of clothing. I may wear my pair; they may be tight, may accentuate the curves of my buttocks, make me feel safe and look good. But I definitely, have not given the permission to anyone to come and violate my body – no I am not asking for rape.

So where do our politicians crawl out from, again? Who gives them the gall to toss loose statements in the air? Having a ticket to contest in elections does not give them the right to noxiousness. And it certainly does not give them the leeway to question or challenge a woman’s character.

I will wear those robust pants that can give perversion a hard-hitting fight. And there will be many like me.

Prerna Mittra

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The Viewspaper