Do men need protecting from themselves?

Whipped for indecency – a well-known female journalist in Sudan is facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers. She was one of 13 women arrested last week for wearing trousers, those who pleaded guilty were given 10 lashes there and then.

Shaimaa Khalil – a BBC journalist- shared her story about a similar experience in Doha. She was cautioned by a policeman for wear a sleeveless top and jeans. She found the ticking off really humiliating. He threatened to take her down to the police station if she was caught dressing in such a way again.

I remember being told by a man in Morocco to cover up in the evening (I was wearing a knee length summer dress) . That really wound me up but I responded by throwing on a pair of jeans – I was actually afraid of what might happen to me if I didn’t!

In response to Shaimaa’s experiences in Doha and Morocco, a comparison must be drawn. In Qatar as in some other countries, there are laws preventing women from wearing modern dress. In Morocco, there are no such laws. There is only social and family pressure that obliges women not to reveal too much of their skin. Actually Moroccan women are still free to wear topless T-shirts and the like, but still they may have to bear with harassment from men.

In Morocco, there are Muslim women who wear black clothes covering their whole bodies. They’re jokingly called ninjas.

In the case of Morocco, foreign women; especially, westerners are free to dress as they like. They can look half-naked but not totally naked. They can even walk in the street with their male partners holding each other’s hands and kissing. They can walk in the streets ( sometimes very crowded) with bare arms and back.

It’s true there are other Muslim countries where women face heavy restrictions concerning the way they should dress. But it’s wrong to generalise the assumption that all Muslim countries have drastic measures and women are forced to wear Muslim clothing, including scarves. It’s a matter of choice even for the locals.

Concerning the responses from men to how women dress, this depends on their personalities. In societies, where it is still a taboo for men and women to have free relations or to be seen together in public, it is still a sensitive issue, as an “indecent” dress is interpreted as an invitation to sex for pleasure or money.

Men should have control over themselves. They shouldn’t be controlled by instinct and fantasy. Women should dress for self-respect, not by wearing a burqa and also by not wearing clothes that reveal too much when they are sure they can be seen just as a sex object and not as persons whose personality should be respected.

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