Social media outrage is quite regularly misplaced. But while this morning’s #ShortSkirtBan, based on a news article from a national daily, may be a misinterpretation of an actual policy by the Chandigarh administration, it’s definitely not misplaced.
According to the article, the administration, in its policy for “Controlling of Places of Public Amusement, 2016” apparently instructs discotheque owners to ban “exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women”, “indecency” and behaviour that is “seditious and likely to excite political discontent”. The policy, which comes with a change in the timings for when bars in the city can shut, came into effect on 1 April.
Meanwhile, Chandigarh Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal has clarified that there is no ban on mini-skirts per se.
“We have not banned miniskirts. No such dress code has been prescribed in the policy framed by the Chandigarh administration recently,” Hindustan Times quoted Aggarwal as saying.
While the exact wording may not have made any reference to short skirts, it still stands as an instruction to how women must behave, and what they must wear. And that’s precisely what Gul Panag highlights in this interview with Catch.
As a powerful woman influencer from Chandigarh, Gul Panag talks about the right for women to choose, our country inching towards social conservatism, and the need for MP Kirron Kher to speak up.
1. What’s your take on this ‘mini-skirt ban’ in Chandigarh discos?
Firstly, it’s not a mini-skirt ban. A nodal committee has been appointed within the Chandigarh administration which comprises bureaucrats of the Punjab and Haryana cadre. They are looking to regulate restaurants and discotheques.
Now, instead of regulation, they’ve reduced the time for them to remain open till 12am, instead of 2am. And also, something ambiguous as ‘scantily clad women’ and ‘indecently dressed women’ has somehow been misconstrued as being ‘short skirts’. #ShortSkirtBan has become the hashtag, which I also used to curate my two cents on it.
Either way, the state has no business deciding or setting the rules for how women should dress. That’s the bigger issue. It’s not about skirts, the issue is that the state decides what a woman can and cannot wear. The state should not have the liberty to construe what’s decent and what is not decent, and what is scantily clad and is not.
2. As an actor who has worked in films like Dor, Turning 30 — progressive films that focus on women — do you think we’re regressing as a country?
I don’t think this is relevant to me as an actor, it’s relevant to me as a woman in this country.
I think India is a liberal democracy, and in a liberal democracy you do not get to tell people what they should wear. That’s the objectionable part here.
Are we regressing? I’m not sure. But to dictate what one half of the country, or in this case city, should wear is a movement towards social conservatism, which is not good for any society.
3. We’re still trying to figure the connection between ‘indecency’, ‘scantily dressed women’ and ‘sedition’? Do you have any theories?
The notification is not easy to understand. I’ve only seen excerpts of the notification. I’m relying largely on reports from The Times of India and Network 18.
If you’ve seen my Twitter page, a lot of people are now trying to nitpick and say, “But it doesn’t say skirt-ban”. Fair enough. As long as there’s some thought on how a woman should dress, it’s a problem. Where and how a woman should dress is her prerogative. We are not the people to impose that on her.
4. As a woman and an influencer from Chandigarh, what angers you?
It’s important to speak up. Because today it’s vague terms like ‘scantily clad women’, tomorrow it’ll be ‘jeans’. Haryana khap already tried to ban jeans. How do khap panchayats get to be supra-legal and remain outside the purview of law and order?
Chandigarh administration is not supra-legal. So a khap panchayat saying ‘no jeans’ is not the same as Chandigarh admin saying ‘indecent clothing’.
5. So, what would you like to tell the Chandigarh administration for this notification?
I want my MP (Kirron Kher) to take this matter up on the behalf of the people of Chandigarh. She is our elected representative. The babus are neither elected, nor accountable. And this is why we elected her, to address such issues.
6. If wearing ‘mini-skirts’ is ‘anti-national’, how does the government let Bollywood thrive?
My objection is purely on what is ‘decent’, what is not, and what is ‘scanty’, what is not. I cannot comment on the word ‘sedition’ or ‘anti-national’ because I’m not sure about the actual wording of the notification.