NEW DELHI – An Indian college announced on Monday it had banned girls from wearing jeans, short dresses and T-shirts to crack down on sexual harassment, sparking outrage from pupils and rights campaigners.
The Adarsh Women’s College in Haryana state, 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of New Delhi, said students would be fined 100 rupees (1.8 dollars) each time they broke the dress code.
“We have imposed a ban on jeans and T-shirts because these are completely Westernized and (so) are short dresses,” school head Alaka Sharma told the NDTV news channel.
“The small dresses don’t cover students and that is the reason why they have to face eve-teasing.”
“Eve-teasing” is a common phrase used in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to cover offenses ranging from verbal abuse to sexual assault, though it is often criticised as a euphemism that hides serious crime.
“Jeans and short tops invite attraction and also distract the students,” Sharma said in a separate interview.
Skinny jeans, T-shirts and other Western fashions have rapidly grown in popularity among young Indians, spreading from cities to rural states such as Haryana, though many older people disapprove of such clothes.
Pupils at the Adarsh college, which teaches girls between 16 and 19, complained that they were being punished unfairly instead of being protected from harassment.
“A ban on wearing jeans and T-shirts doesn’t mean that there will be no crimes and boys will not pass lewd comments on you,” Ritu, a college student, said.
“Men who want to eve-tease can do it if a girl has donned Indian clothes also. I don’t think dressing in Indian attire will bring a change.”
Mamata Sharma, head of the National Commission of Women, told reporters that sexual harassment in India could not be tackled by ordering girls to wear saris and other traditional styles of dress.
“Our country is progressing, we have entered into 21st century and it is very disappointing to hear or see such things,” she told reporters.
“The government should take action against the college management or such institutions who impose diktats on girls.”