I have just returned from India where the issue of women's safety, equality and respect is being hotly debated, with more reported cases of gang rapes against Indian women but also western tourists, and with village chiefs suggesting punishments for women who don't tow the line. A community leader talked about the incidence of rape being low in his area because women covered up, as opposed to other areas - clearly leaving the suggestion that womens' state of dress or undress provoke the vile, gang rapes and abuses against them.This is a place where women cannot be on the streets safely anymore, where violence is increasing against them, and where the state and the police force have done precious little so far.But actually it is not just the laws and the court system that needs changing it is the mind set of a people who have been raised to believe the boy child is the only one that matters.
And so to Australia and to the wonderful - let me say it again - wonderful state of undress of a whole nation. I will talk only about women here to make this small, but to me, valuable comparison of how things should be.
It is summer time here - the temperatures are pleasantly warm and occasionally hot - girls, mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, dress in a way which shows maximum flesh - yes there is so much of it around that when I first got here it took me a while to adjust after being covered up in India. It is proudly displayed on every type of body and shape imaginable and takes on every shade under the sun from ghostly white, to pinky white, to olive, to brown and black. It doesn't matter what colour you are nor what clothes you are ultimately not wearing.
After years of leery stares in India, I have arrived on a continent where men go about their business as they would and do not give women a second glance no matter how much flesh she might be showing. That is not to say they don't appreciate a curvaceous body or a beautiful face or even a combination of the two - just as a woman would admire a good looking man, but there is none of that staring, the lechery which goes with prying on women and making them feel uncomfortable and ultimately not safe. I could be facetious here and say you know that old adage that some men undress you with their eyes, well in Australia I guess they cant do that as the girls do a pretty good job of it themselves ! Do not think that Australia was always as relaxed as this. Apparently in the 60s women had to wear 7.5cms of fabric at the hip of their bikinis or they could be arrested ! Think how far they have come in some 50 years. Perhaps India will show that level of change in the next 50 or so, we can only hope . But there is a serious point to this and that is I am meeting a a society which has brought up its children to respect the sexes and to respect their freedom to express themselves. This respect has nothing to do with the colour of your skin, the cut of your clothes or your sex.And do you know, that is all there is to it.
It is egalitarian and joyful, liberating and cool and I would happily have raised a daughter here knowing her sex would never have a negative bearing on her life, her outlook or her safety.