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Even though neither the admit card nor the website of the university mentioned any dress codes, the invigilator refused to let her sit for her exams in the pair of shorts she wore.
In a fresh incident of moral policing, a 19 year old girl from Assam was forced to wrap a curtain around her and only then give the exam, because the invigilator at her exam centre took it upon himself to police the attire of the young girl.
According to a report by Indian Express, the incident took place on Wednesday when Jubilee Tamuli appeared for her entrance exam to Assam Agricultural University (AAU). Even though neither the admit card nor the website of the university mentioned any dress codes, the invigilator refused to let her sit for her exams in the pair of shorts she wore.
Her father was made to rush to a market 8 kms away to buy a pair of trousers, while the teenager was left in an environment of intense scrutiny and discomfort. She was given a curtain to cover her legs, which kept slipping while she sat for her examination. Not only was the experience of writing the exam extremely stressful for her after such treatment, she shared that this was the “most humiliating experience of her life”. She plans to write to the Education Minister of Assam, Ranoj Pegu, about the harassment she was subjected to.
But the harassment of the young woman did not end here. When the Indian Express shared the news to their Facebook page, hordes of people made their regressive mindset public by blaming the girl in the comment section of the post.
One Facebook user commented, “Amazing upbringing. 19 year old was not humiliated to appear indecently in shorts for her exam. But she was humiliated when someone tried to put cover on her indecency!!!!”. Another said, “you should have been thrown out of exam hall.”
Others blamed the parents of the legally adult woman for not policing her agency to choose her own clothes. “All fault and blame should go to girl’s parents for not giving a piece of parental advice to their daughter to wear decent dress while going to examination Centre. This girl should not misuse the beautiful lines…. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana’ She must learn first.. ‘Badan Chupao, Izzat Bachao’.
The social media users further found fault with the girl’s speaking up about the harassment she was subjected to, and passed unfounded judgement on her academic capabilities. One person on Facebook said, “Neither will she get in NEET nor will she get selected in Agriculture university. If she was a serious student, she would have focussed on her exam and not attempted to go for cheap publicity. She has permitted the sharing of her pics in media, what does that say about her. Looking for cheap publicity.”
Another said, “She responded to phone calls on this topic…she meant it…wants cheap publicity…show some Talibani clips”, followed by three emojis with tears of joy and laughter.
Some of the commenters even took the incident wildly out of context to suit their vested interests and be blatantly Islamophobic. One said, “It is the impact of Sharia Law” and another asked, “Is our country Islamic? Those did should be behind bars.” Others commented on the religion followed by the principal of the college which was the exam centre. The government in power at the state level in Assam happens to be the pro-Hindutva BJP.
While there were some individuals who extended their solidarity and bemoaned the situation of women in the country, it did not stop others from moral policing. The Indian constitution and the spirit of democracy prohibits such policing, but from common people to state authorities like the police habitually indulge in these harmful practices. What a person wears is their personal choice guaranteed by the constitution, and especially in situations where there are no stipulated dress codes or uniforms, any attempt to police one’s individual preference and harass them is deplorable.
It is always women and gender nonconforming individuals who find themselves at the receiving end of these attacks. Women owning their agency and expressing themselves against the constraints of the patriarchy is displeasing to these elements who refuse to accept women as equal citizens with full and fundamental rights.
Not only did they find fault in how the young girl decides to dress, but they also had a problem with her speaking up about the harassment she faced. Any woman who goes against the patriarchal notion of what a woman or a lady should be like, faces the wrath of society even to this day. Standing up for your rights and defending yourself definitely do not make the cut in the patriarchal definition of womanhood these people want women to abide by.
We find mentions of such harassment of women on the basis of their attire and their agency quite frequently in newspapers and media outlets, but these remain only the tip of the ice-berg. The society remains deeply misogynist and regressive in their treatment of women. As Jubilee put it, “Some men go about bare-bodied in public and no one says a thing. But if a girl wears shorts, then people point fingers.”
Image source: pxhere under CC0
A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...
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Does Ranbir Kapoor expressing his preferences about Alia using lipstick really make him a toxic husband?
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