By Samantha Wickramasinghe, CCASA Guest Blogger
A 24-year-old man slapped Gauhar Khan, an Indian actress, a model and a reality T.V. show host at an event held in Mumbai. The police quoted the man saying “”being a Muslim woman, she should not have worn such a short dress.”
I want to make sure people who read this blog post understand that this man’s claim is completely misleading. There is no connection between this man’s action and Gauhar Khan’s religious identity. He assaulted her because he wanted to control her, therefore he used victim blaming to “justify” his actions.
Let me tell you how Muslim women are stereotyped and even ridiculed when they wear unrevealing clothes like the Burqua and the Niqab. I grew up in Sri Lanka, a south Asian country which is diverse in its people of different religions. When I was in high school, I had the privilege of taking classes with students who were Muslims. One day when we were learning about world religions, our social studies instructor brought Muslim women’s attire into discussion. Along with him some non-Muslim students including myself asked fellow Muslim students the reason for Muslim women to “cover their entire body.” By asking this question we suggested that Muslim women’s attire somehow imprisoned them from engaging in public activity. Many of us agreed with him and looked to Muslim students for an answer.
I will never forget my fellow classmate who tried to explain to the class, that Muslim women’s dress code (like his mother’s) was an expression of decency. He argued that Muslim women have a normal life like everybody else, and the dress was not meant to imprison them. This student’s claim was not taken seriously. Many people interrupted him and ridiculed him for saying that.
The connection that I am trying to draw here is that regardless of what religion you believe in or what clothes you wear, people who want to control you and assault you will follow their instincts to do so. Some people ridicule Muslim women for wearing traditional clothes and some people will ridicule them when they wear short clothes. The truth is sexual harassment, sexism’ and victim blaming have nothing to do with people’s dress code.
Gaur Khan did not deserve any kind of assault. She deserves respect for what she chooses to wear, like every human being does. We need to discuss these issues among our communities so nobody will misunderstand the difference between sexual assault and religious identities. Sexual assault is a predetermined act of violence. It does not have a religious or moral basis.