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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Ban on Veils Durable Link to this BLOG
On Ban on Veils

Saree Worn to Cover Hair of a Rajasthani LadyRajasthani Woman in Veil  Carrying Child

I maintain a FAQ on Women of India, and a number of people have asked me if and when India is going to ban veils and other covering-of-the-head as they have done recently in France.

The freedom to practice one's religion is one of the fundamental rights in India, and any such ban will be no doubt perceived as unconstitutional and immoral by the population, and as far as I know, no such initiative has been considered in India.

Of course, my mind quickly wanders into the discussion on whether such mandates are appropriate. We do know that forcing one segment of the people to wear something is wrong, as the Nazis and the Taliban did, but is forcing a segment not to wear something, wrong?

I tend to think so.

Laws of any land should be designed to protect against  injustice, and I see no reason how forcing a Sikh not to wear a turban, or a brahmin not to wear the yajnopavita (sacred thread) serves justice. I am now convinced that the French deserve all the hate and ridicule targeted at them.

Another of the frequent questions asked to me is how come the Indian women still wear sarees while the men seem to have adopted to Western clothing, and if that was a sign of suppression of women in India.

The answer to the question is rather complicated, and multi-folded.

  • The traditional Indian clothing for men is very much prevalent in rural India, as well as in urban homes. The stitched shirt has been used in India for many centuries and can be hardly considered a western influence. One must not assume that traditional Indian attire for men is obsolete or unfashionable.
  • It is true that the veil  (purdah) system was once common in India and was used as a suppression of women's desire to go out or participate in the society. However, social reformers in 19th and 20th centuries have changed many of the social evils in the Indian society while leaving the traditional customs as they were. So while we see that India Gandhi when she was the Prime-Minister of India covered her hair, it would be incorrect to classify her practice as obeying the fundamentalists!
  • Indian women do wear non-Indian clothes! The Salwar-Kameez, that is very popular in India came from Middle-East.
  • Some outfits like skirts or shorts are considered too revealing for women in India, yet the saree that shows the bare midriff and navel is is considered respectable. It is a cultural thing.

But what do I know? I am a man.

See Also:
• Rajasthani Woman in Veil Carrying Child
• Saree Sapne -- Celebrating the Indian Saree

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Last Modified: 2/25/2004

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