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The futile ban on Mumbai's mannequins

June 03, 2013 14:39 IST

While our politicians are waging war against mannequins and trying to save society from being corrupted, maybe they would like to have a good look at the city’s water and electricity problem. After all, thirst and darkness are known to provoke men into doing ‘wrong acts’, says Paloma Sharma.

Just when you thought that Mumbai was still in Maharashtra and not Haryana, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation pulled a fast tau on about 20 million unsuspecting Mumbaikars.

On May 16, all 227 members of the BMC’s general body put aside their party differences and passed a resolution put forward by Ritu Tawade, a Bharatiya Janata Party corporator from Ghatkopar’s ward number 121, to ban mannequins wearing lingerie because it provokes men to commit ‘wrong acts’. The BMC chief’s approval is (thankfully) still pending.

While the who’s who of social media are yet to figure out whether to laugh or cry over this absurd initiative by the municipal body, women’s rights activists are outraged by a move that they term regressive. Ironically, Tawade, the mastermind behind the ban, claims she is protecting the integrity of women.

Although the merchant community is less than pleased about the ban, one must agree with Tawade, a commerce graduate, on how stiff, lifeless (often limbless), lingerie-clad replicas of the female body incite men to commit sexual crimes against women.

Mannequins cause rape in the same way that having a fridge makes one obese. But since, according to Tawade and her fellow corporators at the BMC, mannequins are not part of Indian culture, they must not be allowed. Perhaps we should just go back to carving sultry nudes in extremely compromising positions on temple walls. Ah, the good old days…

One is forced to agree when Tawade points out that grace and dignity in attire is what Indian culture is all about. Indian culture does seem to have an unhealthy obsession with the grace and dignity (read: length and breadth) of women’s attire these days. However, it seems to be a necessary evil since any amount of skin may supercharge that evil rape hormone that the BMC seems to think all men carry.

A considerable amount of the male populace is tired of the ‘all men are rapists’ rhetoric and are extremely offended by the underlying message in Tawade’s claim that mannequins corrupt men’s minds and incite them to commit sexual assault. Another considerable amount is still trying to figure out why the BMC would think that men get turned on by mannequins when porn is readily available online.

Despite the idea being linked to a campaign against indecency that has gone horribly wrong on the PR front, banning mannequins might not turn out to be so bad. After all  Tawade is only doing what she is doing to prevent women from facing the embarrassment of having to look at mannequins wearing underwear in public on roadside stalls. It is only those uncultured women, who are often seen flocking at these very stalls to buy undergarments at rates cheaper than those of big showrooms, who don’t understand Tawade’s honourable intentions.

Thankfully, our corporator from ward number 121 in Ghatkopar is not one to lose heart so soon. She believes in having a system like that of the Middle East to bring down the rate of crimes against women. Of course, it is of no consequence that even adult middle-eastern women have no mobility outside the four walls of their homes without a male relative escorting them or that it takes four witnesses to prove that a woman was raped, else she be stoned for adultery. As long as rape isn’t reported, how will anyone know if it has happened?

The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy has worked pretty well for the BMC in the past, considering the number of bar dancers that were rendered homeless and pushed into prostitution after the ban on dance bars in 2005. But it did not really matter, did it? Those women were tossed away, into oblivion; and you cannot care about that which does not exist.

However, even with mannequins and bar dancers disappearing, there are several other things that do exist, which may incite men to rape. For example: high heels in shop displays, exposed midriffs in bridal wear ads, item numbers in Bollywood films, the smooth female contralto in voice navigation systems of cars and of course -- the ultimate instigators -- women.

Whether the BMC (aka Bombay’s Moral Cops) will ban all of the above is still unknown. But while they’re waging their war against mannequins and trying to save society from being corrupted, maybe they would like to have a good look at the city’s water and electricity problem. After all, thirst and darkness are known to provoke men into doing “wrong acts”. Right, Ms Tawade?

Paloma Sharma