Skirts and Rape

CW: Rape, language

"There's a card in there listing the do's and don'ts. Basic things like, 'Don't go out at night alone.' 'Don't wear skirts.'"

Mahesh Sharma, the tourism minister of India, made these comments over the weekend while promoting a welcome kit that will be handed out to tourists. He has since back-peddled, claiming that his words were taking out of context. That what he actually meant was to be cautious.

"I am a father of two daughters...I would never tell women what they should wear or not. Such a ban is unimaginable, but it is not a crime to be cautious. Different countries issue advisories from time to time, but I never said change anyone's way of dressing."

The first quote there says 'don't wear skirts' and the second 'I never said change anyone's way of dressing', so we can see here that there is no real education on rape and how to talk about it.

Image from CNN. The pamphlet has no mention of a skirt.

Image from CNN. The pamphlet has no mention of a skirt.

The pamphlet he was promoting, not only never mentions a skirt, but has some very good information about dressing for religious places. The problem is not what we're handing out to tourists, it's how our tourism minister and in fact many people in India, UK, the world discuss rape.

What the minister does by saying 'do not wear a skirt', is tell women that wearing a skirt means that if they are a victim of rape/assault/cat-calling, it is their fault. It's telling women that when they cover their bodies, men are functioning humans, but when we wear skirts, men become feral, wild beasts, unable to control their desires are they chase and hound women, raping and assaulting them. Again, they say it's the woman's fault.

If people said 'men, STOP RAPING WOMEN', instead of 'women stop wearing skirts', it shifts the blame back on men. (For those about to say 'women rape men too', I'm talking specifically about the language used around clothing and victim blaming, and haven't delved into the world of Trans/Non-Binary as I don't experience it - that will have to be another article from another person).

When we tell women that they need to carry weapons, that they should walk in groups, that they need to be careful - we are telling them that it's their responsibility to not get raped. If we told men 'STOP RAPING', that would shift the responsibility.

Yet again and again, I hear it as if it's my fault because it's 'easier' to blame women than to fix the larger problem - male dominance and masculinity. 

When I was younger (a teenager), I used to be told to cover up because I shouldn't want 'the wrong attention' - note the wording here. I shouldn't WANT the wrong ATTENTION. Blame for 'asking for it' and the casual swap of rape for 'attention'. This language scared me. I would go out and worry that men would be hiding in alleys, ready to pounce. A lot of the time, I wasn't wrong. A lot of the time, it was 'my fault'.

Men would stalk, assault, scream, chase me and I would blame myself.


Because I shouldn't have worn a skirt? Or because my whole life, people have blamed victims for the crime of men?