Indian men wear skirts to halt violence against women

Skirt the Issue says that mentalities, not clothes, must change.

New Statesman
An Indian demonstrator holds a placard during the one-month anniversary of the gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi on January 16, 2013. (Getty Images)

Twenty five Indian men wore skirts on Saturday to raise awareness for the campaign opposing violence against women.

Around 200 supporters joined ‘Skirt the Issue’ in Cubbon Park, Bangalore, which aimed to spread the message that someone's choice of clothes doesn't mean they should be raped.

Campaign co-organsier, Adithya Mallya, told an Indian newspaper: “I wanted to show people that if a guy won’t get molested if he wears a skirt, then a girl shouldn’t too.”

The event, which was attended by men, women, professionals and students, is part of the wave of protest following the fatal gang rape of a twenty three year old student in Delhi in December.

It follows suggestions from some eminent Indian citizens that going out at night or dressing a particular way incites sexual violence. In an interview with Bloomberg, Delhi gang rape lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma said: “I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respectable lady.”

Skirt the Issue, run by Samarpita Samaddar and Adithya Mallya, promoted the event through social media.

Their Facebook page said:

Wear a skirt and speak to as many as you can against the misconception that what a woman wears is the cause for sexual violence against her. Go about your day as usual, go to work, go shopping, watch a movie, but do it in a skirt wherever you are and do tell people why you’re doing it.

They said that they wanted highlight the absurdity of the idea that what a woman wears invites sexual assault.

It continued: “Nothing shows more solidarity with women than breaking barriers and boundaries of ‘his’ and ‘hers’.

We know that some of the strongest feminists out there are men – me who believe that women have an equal stake in the right to freedom, security and justice in this country. We’re asking those men to come out as a show of support, show India that her women are not fighting this battle alone. It’s men and women TOGETHER as one community against #VAW.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. Delhi, the “rape capital”, has the worst statistics among all the cities with 635 sexual assaults in 2012, 25% of the rape cases. A woman is raped in the Delhi every 14 hours.

On Saturday some of the skirt-clad protesters spoke to New Delhi TV.

“Please don’t judge our women by what she wears; don’t judge her character,” one said. “It’s more important that you respect her for what she is and whatever she does please leave it to her.”

Another added: "Wearing a skirt does not make me a woman, wearing a skirt is my choice and women should have the same choice that I have. Nobody holds me up for my choices, but women are held accountable for the clothes they wear and the choices they make. They should have the same rights as every man has."

A final Skirt the Issue proponent said:

We definitely don't want the momentum to end, we want to make sure that we can keep this going for as long as possible. We don't want anyone forgetting we're trying and I know we are not going to make a permanent change but it has to start somewhere and we're going to start now.