Forcing schoolgirls to wear an abaya is not the solution to harassment

Therefore, on the face of it, the Haripur district’s education office’s decision to enforce a dress code for schoolgirls, which instructs them to wear an abaya/chadar, may not seem particularly surprising

But this move cannot be viewed in isolation

More than the enforcement itself, it is the motive behind the decision that warrants much scrutiny

The rationale used to justify the implementation of this dress code is that if the schoolgirls wear this piece of clothing, it will curb the growing number of complaints by schoolgirls of harassment and eve teasing

Samina Altaf, District Education Officer (DEO) in Haripur, stated in a circular that, “Instruct all students to use gown/abaya or chadar to veil/conceal/cover up theirself in order to protect them from any unethical incident

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php%3Fpost%3D87808%26action%3Dedit The decision and the reasoning behind it reflect a greater malaise plaguing our society

It perpetuates a culture of victim-blaming by holding women and their choice of attire as the reasons behind harassment

It appears that the solution to reducing harassment is not to reprimand the men who carry out these heinous activities but to instead tell girls to cover themselves up even more because it is their attire which prompts such behaviour in the first place

The fact that this kind of regressive thinking has now essentially been endorsed by the DEO in Haripur sets a worrisome precedent

This kind of flawed moral policing is by no means new

Female students at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) were fined for wearing jeans and had been instructed to dress in a ‘decent’ manner

Similarly, the business school at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) made it compulsory for women to wear head scarves

But what makes the Haripur matter alarming is the fact that it was put into effect in response to increasing cases of harassment

Altaf stated that, “…I have taken the decision in light of my responsibility to secure girls from inner and outer dangers

” But the truth of the matter is that harassment will take place regardless of what clothes women are made to wear

By shifting the focus from the harassers to the victims, we teach our girls to repress their voices and to blame themselves whenever they are catcalled or harassed

Schools impart institutionalised learning, and perpetuating a dress code only for female students ingrains a false sense of humiliation for young girls

Contrary to taking the focus away from their bodies, the narrative becomes about their body, as an object of desire, lust and most importantly, shame

Women’s participation in public spaces already faces many hindrances because of the very real fear of harassment

Therefore, when the attempt to tackle harassment starts with women and not the perpetrators, it only reinforces the notion that how women behave in public places must be dictated and further limited

The enforcement of a dress code gives control of women’s bodies back to men, both in institutions and at home

Naturally, it is not surprising that some have come out in support of this decision, and one only hopes such polices do not become the new standard


com/AnsarAAbbasi/status/1172772844863926272 It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens from any untoward incidents

If there have been complaints of harassment, either on school campus or outside, it must be addressed by ensuring that the perpetrators are held responsible

A failure to act on the part of the government is a lapse in the working and implementation of the law

 Rather than using schools and other narrative building outlets to launch a campaign centred around girls’ clothes, it is important to build a perspective that de-stigmatises women’s clothing, holds the harassers accountable, and ensures the safe and active participation of women in public spaces

Forcing schoolgirls to wear an abaya is not the solution

Date:17-Sep-2019 Reference:View Original Link