New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma on Monday denied urging foreign women tourists to avoid wearing skirts in the country.
Sharma told the media that he made the comment in the context of foreigners who visit temples where certain rules have to be followed.
Admitting that he was not authorised to issue injunctions on matters of anyone’s dress, Sharma said he wanted to advise tourists to be discreet while visiting temples.
“Even I have two daughters… I would never tell women what they should wear and what they should not,” he said.
However, leaders from other political parties weren’t impressed with Sharma’s explanation, and attacked him all the same.
“If he has his way, he’ll wrap every woman in a chador and ensconce every woman in her home… This is a ridiculous and outrageous thing to say,” Manish Tewari, Congress Spokesperson and former Information and Broadcasting Minister, told IANS.
He also charged the BJP with having an “obscurantist DNA, which is intrinsic to their mental make-up”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too took a dig at Sharma’s remarks through a tweet.
“Women had greater freedom to wear clothes of their choice in Vedic times than they have in Modi times,” he tweeted.
Ranjana Kumari, Director at Centre for Social Research (CSR), also termed the minister’s remarks “unnecessary and uncalled for” and said that they show the “sexist approach towards women travellers”.
“It’s the government which needs to ensure the safety of travellers,” Kumari told IANS.
“It’s not ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, it’s Atithi ‘Savdhaan’ bhava,” she added.
Nivedita Menon, feminist author and Professor of political Theory at JNU, accused the BJP government of being “inefficient” in providing safety to tourists and women in general.
Menon told IANS: “The Minister is basically expressing the inability of his government to ensure the safety of women in India, not to mention the safety of women tourists in India. As if even a tiny fraction of the hundreds of women sexually harassed and raped in India were in skirts!”
Both tourism industry leaders and women activists of Agra too protested, saying such statements would send out a wrong message about the country.
Agra Development Foundation Secretary K.C. Jain, who was with the minister, said Sharma had only referred to an advisory to be given out to foreign tourists detailing do’s and dont’s in India.
On Sunday, Sharma told an event in Agra that foreign female tourists must avoid wearing skirts and refrain from moving out without escort in the evenings in smaller towns.
“When tourists arrive at the airport, they will be given a welcome kit which has a card with dos and don’ts… it has instructions like if they are in small areas, they should not roam around alone at night or wear skirts,” he had said.