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Bikinis and Decency January 28, 2010

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Desi Indian, General, News and Current Affairs, Personal, Politics, Women and Children.
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28th January, 2010

Do bikinis define sensuality, sexuality or simply just a piece (…er maybe two-piece) of clothing? Bikinis, for whatever reason, seem to be the “decent-o-meter,” if I can coin such a term, ala thermometer, of a society.  Anything related to a bikini, including a ban, invites too much press, and I would attribute that to the images it conjures in people’s minds – Calendar girls, poster girls, pop stars, fashion idols, divas, and even blouses atop traditional Indian sarees are now beginning to look like bikini tops – everybody loves a bikini. It is probably a fact that this blog post will get into the search engines, only if I add one of the tags as “bikini.” No I am not suggesting that even search engine crawlers are sexist. But I wouldn’t mind assuming that “bikinis” invite a chuckle, a smirk and a smile even to a search engine.

It did bring a smile when I read about the recent tourism industry ban in Goa, on “adverts featuring bikini-clad women.”   The move apparently is to promote the state as a “family holiday destination” and not a “destination for sex tourism.”  The local government announced that advertisements showing scantily dressed women will be censored.

Just for the purpose of statistics, Googling around on this topic showed that there are around 2.4 million tourists visiting Goa every year, of which about only 400,000 are foreigners, implying that the rest are Indian tourists. Amidst a spate of complaints by international tourists of alleged rape and molestation, the government thought a press release banning bikinis in advertisements will give it a clean slate to promote tourism.  Can we get inconsequential, any more?  How does a women in a bikini in a tourism promotion advert of a spot like Goa – which is all about sun, sands and serenity – end up promoting sex?

And for purposes of banning something, it is time political leaders and think tanks thought of really protecting women – If the issue in Goa is all about protecting women and promoting “preferred family-destination” image of Goa, then a lot of things associated with men and their life styles ought to be banned.  It is because of booze, brawls and buirdly behaviour of society big-wigs that women get harassed, molested and raped – Not because of their clothing. By shifting the focus on banning advertisements featuring women in bikinis, the issue of social injustice to women (Indian or International), or punishing the real culprits who were responsible for those molestations and rapes, has taken a back seat.

Most often when the spot light is on something as trivial as banning bikini ads, and if the content is worth being sensationalized in the national press, then the real issues are lost.  The issue in Goa, is of law and order.  Only in India, when a woman gets molested, or raped it is HER problem.  It is the way she is, or the way she dresses up, or the way she should’ve been, that are discussed and debated over and over.  When a man is beaten up physically, then it is a law and order situation.  If a woman is mauled and maligned mentally and physically for the rest of her life, then it is not a problem of the state, but of the individual.  There are various to-and-fro dialogues, debates on television news channels –  until the next hot topic that increases the Television Ranking Points(TRP) ratings happens – and discussions on why women ought to dress modestly (whatever that means), and decently and why and how it is the duty of the women to take care of themselves!

Solution? – Since lamenting doesn’t help, to begin with, someone can sit down and define decency –  Defining country-specific laws would be a good start.  Then laws on public nudity and decency must be redefined, at least in India – Because it does bother the sensitivities of Indian women, to watch international tourists flouting their own personal laws of decency and public behaviour in India – Things that they would never think of doing in their own land seem to have safe outlets here in our country.  Not because we are culturally imbalanced but because, we are tolerant.  Not because we are a lawless country, but because we can get too flexible to visitors, to the point of losing our own identity.

It is a fact that much like in every other country of the world, here too, perversions have a place and there is a price tag to it.  Blame it on globalization, even international perversions are available at Indian rates, in India.  But, welcoming tourists and providing a safe environment for them in our country, should not amount to forgetting our own need for decency, in public.

And decency does not start and end with bikinis and bans.

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