Sunday, 2 June 2013

Lingerie Mannequins: BMC gets its knickers in a twist

Banning, it seems, is the easiest option for many in India. Reinforcing this view is the latest decision of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which unanimously decided to ban mannequins that display lingerie items. Lingerie mannequins, according to the Ghatkopar corporator, Ritu Tawade, who proposed the ban, are “corrupting the minds of people and are against the morals of the society”. How Ms Tawade came to such a conclusion is not clear but she seems to have a lot of people agreeing with her, including the Mumbai mayor. There have been earlier instances of bans being resorted to when an unorthodox view was expressed: be it the banning of literature and art, banning of movies, etc. Rather than having an informed debate and seeking a public consensus on ways of improving a situation when there are conflicting views about a particular subject, the shortcut of banning everything does not fit the mould of propriety that societal norms set.
Circumventing or postponing tough decisions are not the sign of a good leader. Our authorities, it seems, do not believe in this. While banning does not address the problem, it certainly does exaggerate the pretence of action being undertaken by the authorities concerned. When it comes to bans, authorities, in government or ‘protectors of Indian culture’, are often at the forefront. If it is the safety and security of women that the authorities have in mind while taking these ludicrous decisions, they would do better by focusing more on improving the law and order situation in the country. If authorities hope to instil a respect for women with such a move, it should be remembered that bans do not ensure or enable gender justice.
If more people start to see reason in the flawed arguments put forward by the likes of Tawade, soon the sculptures and paintings in the Ajanta and Ellora caves and the Khajuraho temples will be portrayed in a more ‘descent’ way that will not lead to the ‘pollution of the minds’ of people who see it. And what a tragedy that would be.