In Sudan a woman takes her fight to question the imposition of a judgement that ruled her clothing to be immodest to the courts. The bravery of her action is significant given the fact that she has resigned from a job that gave her diplomatic immunity that protected her from having the judgement implemented, in the hope that she can bring about a change in the system of governance that she sees to be flawed. Her desire is to bring to the attention of her own people, that despite actually following the codes of propriety that the law indicates and which she respects, the interpretations of such laws continue to give conservative hard liners the opportunity to abuse and oppress women's rights.
I sit in another country yet her protest and fight equally becomes my concern. How often have we heard in cases of rape, the suggestion that the clothes of the victim were provocative and therefore aroused the sexual desires of her predator/s. I may personally love the sari and rank it as my all time favourite garment, but heaven forbid, I certainly do not advocate for it as a standardised dress code for all women in India!
I remember growing up in the sixties and wearing micro-mini's in Baroda that were inches short of my pantie line! My wise parents, instead of banning my fashion statements (which included halter necks and hot pants too!), got a foreign friend to get a pantie cum petticoat contraption (all very cute and compact) that was in fact designed to wear with extra short skirts so that all that shouldn't be on view for the public, was kept out of sight!
As I grew to find my own political self and maturity in college, I simultaneously found style statements (!) more appropriate to the self image that co-related to this representation. But what a blast I had as a teenager strutting about in the excitement of my youthful experimentation, which I may add, was also a crucial passage for my creative expressions to find voice.
Today we are less open and trusting as a society, and I feel great sadness to see this change. Rape crimes seem more prevalent and the overall fear of "attracting the wrong attention" makes all of us more wary and conscious in ways that give conservative nuances that are worrying. I wish I could reclaim those times from my own teenage abandon for others too, where the paradox of liberal "freedoms" and "decency", could be considered as part of the same package in behavioural responses. I hope that the women in Sudan are not humiliated into witnessing the voice of this brave woman becoming silenced by the 40 whip lashes that can become the verdict, if the laws of her land deem it so.
I think there is a lesson to be learnt from a place like Rio in Brazil where men and women can roam the streets in their beach swim attire (literally!), and nobody ogles/looks/cares/bothers or gives a damn!!!! What liberation and wisdom! Didn't we have dress codes acceptable to our cultural traditions at one time, where both men and women were bare bodied above the waist in certain communities? Are there not tribes in the world that still follow such practices? Why then do we selectively become conservative regarding these issues and pretend that God and "others" find it objectionable.
Let us hope that the voice of moderate reasoning makes a change today in Sudanese law. It will be a step in the right direction for all of us. Lets us also salute this brave lady who cares to take on a system and places her own freedom in jeopardy willingly in order to give the freedom of choice to others.