Mundu Ban for autorickshaw drivers in Kerala?

Do we have laws that prohibit men from displaying certain parts of their bodies or clothing, often with the intent to make women and little girls uncomfortable? Do you think Lungi, Mundu or Dhoti can be worn in ways that break such laws? If that does happen, how likely are women and children to object or report? Why or why not?

N shared the link and the message below.

 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/Kerala-autowallas-fight-for-their-mundus/articleshow/20236681.cms

We have noticed that many autorickshaw drivers wear the mundu folded and tied high up the waist. They also walk around with dhotis and lungis folded up, causing discomfort to women and families,” said Wayanad police chief A V George. “We have decided to strictly enforce the code for drivers of public transport vehicles in the motor vehicle act in the district, which would require all drivers to shift to khaki pants” He said those who refuse to fall in line will be fined….

“A majority of drivers, especially old men, are accustomed to wearing mundu and it is not easy for them to shift to pants. We fail to understand why the police are being overzealous.”

But many women welcomed the police move. “The way in which many auto drivers wear the mundu is annoying,” said Silja V P, a local resident. “Often we have to walk with our heads down through the auto stands, let alone travelling in the vehicle. The decision should be strictly implemented and auto drivers should cooperate with the authorities.”

Here’s what N has to say,

Dear IHM,

When I read news stories like ‘ban women from pub’, ‘women shouldn’t go out after 8’ etc, it makes me real furious. Now mundu is banned. We all raised a hue and cry when we read news of college administration banning jeans for girls.

During our regular discussion when this news cropped up, I found that I’m not as outraged as I should have been. Personally I find Mundu quite disgusting. For me it’s only popular because its easy to take off (aid for forced sex). Sorry for being crude.

Having born and brought up in Kerala, like most girls I too was subjected to indecent gestures like men suggestively lifting their mundus or wearing it so high up the hairy thighs that it made us want to puke. Most girls and women will have horror stories of men rubbing against them in buses or crowds. You can imagine mundu (made of ultra thin fabric) abetting in this.

But I have mixed feelings about the ban. I am happy, of course. But is it right?

I think they should have just said from now onwards khakhi shirt and pants is the uniform instead of banning them like that. Did they really expect traditional people to accept an out and out ban of a traditional wear like Mundu?

Or is there some other political agenda?

Thanks,

N

If mundu, lungi and dhoti are found weather appropriate then do men find it more difficult to deal with heat and humidity than women do? Also, do we have special laws supporting traditional clothing?

38 thoughts on “Mundu Ban for autorickshaw drivers in Kerala?

  1. Banning any sort of clothing is ridiculous… regardless of if its is for men or women. I am also from Kerala and I know that many men consider mundu a very comfortable choice of clothing in the humid weather. Many traditional women also wear the mundu and veshti. Many female laborers wear mundu and just a blouse when they are working (without a sari or cloth covering their upper body). Next people would be saying that is vulgar!

    First of all, I think women shouldn’t get uncomfortable with men showing them their “hairy thighs” or whatever. It’s just a part of the male body, like thighs and hips and breasts are part of the female body. Its the same argument when people say women shouldn’t wear short skirts because their thighs are provocative. If you are uncomfortable, don’t look. If someone is hitching up their mundu to make you uncomfortable, call them out on it and tell them to behave themselves. Often men get away with this kind of vulgar behavior because they think no one will point it out.

    Banning their choice of clothing is not the solution. Its like saying women get raped for wearing short clothes. Its the same logic. To say only perverse men who want to flash themselves wear mundus. Those who want to flash themselves or rub up against a woman on a bus will do so no matter what they are wearing.

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  2. I totally understand how perverts might use this particular attire to their advantage. Yet, I disagree with the idea of banning any kind of traditional clothing. It isn’t the clothing that causes issues, it is the wearer. This is just another band-aid-type solution to so-called “make women comfortable”. How is it different from wanting to women cover up so that men do not “lose control”? Instead, what they could do is making flashing punishable. I know that it would be very difficult to implement. But haven’t civic authorities in quite a few towns already started installing video cameras to monitor traffic? Could those be used for this purpose too? What about asking women to report cases of harassment? Possibly by taking pictures whenever possible? How about teaching young kids and empowering women and men by encouraging them to report cases or perverted behavior and harassment? How about rewarding people who report such things? How about shaming the perpetrators and making them feel uncomfortable–a dose of their own medicine?

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  3. For me khaki makes sense. See, it’s like you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian in your house and when you get out, you act like a citizen of India since you have to interaction with people. In the same way, Khaki or Mundu can be wearing inside ur house and outside, be ready to wear shirt or khaki, it’s an issue of respect and yeah, many men do that rubbing their crotch in front of women. plz, don’t put any custom or religious argument behind the move..coz it really sucks.

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    • I don’t think clothing can be compared to religion. And even if it is, people don’t restrict their religion to inside their house alone. Those who are devout Hindu/Muslim/Christian/etc bring religion to every aspect of their life because they find their identity in it. People have multiple identities and religion and citizenship are not mutually exclusive. Likewise, it’s unfair to say you can wear X at home and Y outside. Choice of clothing is also a big part of someone’s identity and it’s unfair to ban it.

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  4. I’m not a big fan of policing clothing. If someone *behaves* inapropriately, we should react to that, but the clothing isn’t by itself the problem. This is true for both genders — plenty of people want to force women to wear conservative clothing, some folks even want to go as far as demanding that women are completely covered at all times in public. They justify this by saying it’ll prevent abuse.

    But that is nonsense. RESPECT prevents abuse. Behavioural norms prevent abuse. It’s about culture, not about clothing. If you doubt this, try first walking down a street in Cairo wearing fairly modest clothing, and after that, walking down a street in Stavanger wearing quite revealing clothing.

    The same applies to men: Yes some men behave in ways that are utterly inacceptible, and that’s something we should deal with. But the problem is not their clothing. The problem is the lack of respect they show for others.

    As long as the person behaves politely and apropriately, no problems arise from the clothing.

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    • Completely agree. Saying that mundu aids indecency is no different to saying that (for women) jeans cause sexual harassment.

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  5. Frankly this is the first time I have heard anyone banning anything for men, because it makes a woman uncomfortable!!! So am I glad about it?? hell yeah!! I am super excited :D :D… but having said that.. I really don’t think it is fair any kind of clothing for anyone…. people (men or women) should have the freedom to wear whatever they like… provided they take the responsibility of appropriate dressing…. But that is the whole issue ‘responsibility’! I would like to believe that one can dress anyway he/she wants or even walk naked on the street if it pleases them, and no-one should find it offensive or be tempted to make a sexual approach, but that happens in an ideal world & so long as we are not living in an ideal world, Good & Bad are going to co-exist.

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    • Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. Men have restrictions somewhat similar to women too, not to that extend though. Tight pants are considered ‘uncultured’ for men (especially bad in Chennai – I worked there for a few years). My neighbor threw a fit when he saw me in my running tights at 5am (note: this is nowhere as vulgar as you imagine). He didn’t understand why I couldn’t wear something looser. I’ve also had ‘socially minded’ uncles and aunties stopping me during my run to tell me that I was dressed inappropriately.

      I’ve also noticed that wearing sleeveless shirts/shorts gets you poorer service – the bus conductor treats you like filth, for example. And many times you don’t get taken seriously – you’re seen more as an immature idiot – like when asking for directions. I’ve also get routine bad treatment when I’m stopped by a cop. Once, a cop tapped on my exposed knee with a lathi and he asked me what happened to the rest of my pant. I told him it flew away (bad joke) – had to bribe him twice as much :-/

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        • My point’s a little more subtle. A blue collar employee in a lungi and a white collar one in a pair of shorts are treated the same.

          Yes, many do show off their legs, but don’t get good service/respect from anyone other than their peer group

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        • Btw, am curious now. I haven’t traveled to many parts of India (other than Maha where I was born, and TN) – what do blue collar employees wear in your region? Pants? Kurta? Shorts?

          I get a little surprised at the stereotypes of the ‘Chennai man’. A lot of folks from my hometown actually think that lungi is official dress code in Chennai (like you can wear it to your workplace or a bank/restaurant).

          Hope you’re not bitten by the stereotype too :)

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        • Lol, i cannot be bitten by the stereotype as i was born in TN and was raised in Maharashtra. I visit my hometown for important family functions (Not channai..never been there). But in my home town, most men on streets wear colourful lungis (sabzi walas, autowalas etc) The office-goers wear pants, though they change back into a lungi when they get back home.So if you ask me what a typical chennai guy wud look like in my head, he would have a mooch. (The clothes factor would play a role if i were to imagine a certain sort of chennai-ite – IT guy, student, sabzi wala…depends…but they all have a mooch by default.)

          Speaking of Chennai, it would be interesting to know that many colleges there (engineering) have a dress code not just for girls but also for guys. Shirts with collar tucked into loose formal-ish pants. Girls and guys are forbidden to interact with each other. (I could write a 10 page essay on the ridiculous steps the colleges take to keep the interaction between opposite sexes to a minimum, some include classrooms being patrolled by gundas, hostel rooms not having plug points (lest the students bring in mobiles), canteens have separate timings for girls n boys..etc etc). And, i could also write a 11 page essay on how the students manage to bend these rules. My heart swells with pride when i hear of my cousins’ various escapades right under the noses of the authorities. The only heartening thing is, if a student is caught talking to someone from the opp. sex, both are punished. So i guess, the girl is not entirely blamed. (Not that anyone needs to be blamed, but given the usual scenario where the girl always needs to bear the brunt…this is like, the lesser of 2 evils.). This whole thing is particularly sad since TN is supposed to have a very good literacy rate. I know for a fact that even poor families from my town ensure their girls get atleast a bachelors degree. But what use is a college education, if one is deprived of all the life lessons-teaching experiences?

          Also, why do you say “A blue collar employee in a lungi and a white collar one in a pair of shorts are treated the same.”? Should they be treated any differently just coz of the work they do?

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        • Monika: That’s reading between the lines :) I’m not even remotely suggesting anyone should be treated any differently from anyone else based on clothing/profession. I’m only saying as a society, we treat blue-collar employees poorly (this is one aspect of what this post is essentially about) and poor treatment extends to white collar employees when they dress in shorts/tights. I’m using these terms loosely to make a point, so please don’t read too much into the exact terms.

          Btw, yeah.. there is more dress code for men in Chennai than women. I had to wear leather shoes, tie, full-sleeve shirts and pants, which totally sucks in hot weather. Women had it a little more comfortable with wearing chappals and salwar kameez (or so I assume).

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      • Yes my mom’s neighbor in India is a young guy who wears shorts once he’s home and he gets a lot of disapproving looks and mistrust from people around him. I know shorts are uncommon in India but are perfect for Indian weather. And it’s nice to see more and more men wear them for comfort, without caring about ‘what will people think’. Hopefully in the near future, we will start seeing women doing so as well, without attracting stares.

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      • Chennai is that bad? Now I am thankful for Bangalore. I wear shorts all the time, running, at home, to the supermarket, on public transport, and even to work when I feel like it, and I have never felt disrespected or treated badly. And nowadays I see increasing numbers of women wearing shorts too, and in all the situations I just mentioned.

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  6. Well, it is the person who is indecent and the person who makes women uncomfortable (if at all), not the mundu. Just like women are not raped because of wearing something, men are not perverts because of wearing something either.

    From personal experience, I am certain that men who want to be ‘indecent’ can do so very well in trousers. There was a phase of random men unzipping their trousers and flashing their penises to young girls in Mumbai when I was in school (class 9 or so). I don’t know if this still happens, doesn’t happen to me but perhaps they only target young girls. My friends and I all experienced this ‘trend’.

    I remember sitting at a bus stop with my parents and younger sister back then, when a man came up behind me to ask for the time. I saw him holding something out of the corner of my eye. It was only when he kept blowing on me that I realised that he was trying to ‘eve tease’ me and he was holding his erect penis. I now realise he was actually masturbating and trying to show me ‘it’. I didn’t say anything, too confused and embarrassed ofcourse. He wasn’t deterred by being in trousers or by my parents sitting next to me.

    So you can change the clothing all you want, it makes no difference at all. Grown adults are capable of deciding what they want to wear, we don’t need to interfere with that. The problem is with people believing that it’s ok to harass others, that’s what we need to tackle.

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      • I don’t think this flashing trend is limited to Mumbai alone. Happens in a lot of places. I would like to know from anyone here with knowledge of the law, isn’t flashing a punishable offense? And doing that to school kids… shouldn’t that be considered child abuse?

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  7. The point about the hairy thighs confuses me. Are we supposed to demand that men shave their thighs, or what? I mean if seeing women’s legs is acceptable why should men be forced to cover up?

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    • I’d like to point out here that, socially, only “unhairy” women’s legs are acceptable – i.e.; if women’s leg’s are acceptable the world prefers that they are fair and hairless. Women are not born hairless – they wax and shave.

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  8. //”Personally I find Mundu quite disgusting. For me it’s only popular because its easy to take off (aid for forced sex). Sorry for being crude.//
    Excuse me?! I don’t believe I actually read this.

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  9. Mundu is a choice, i dont find it disgusting at all, sure i dont want to see ugly hairy legs but It’s not mine to comment on, i just avert my eyes.
    They should wear whatever they want, or not :-) it’s not primary school which has uniforms. they need to be trained in not to harass women , this ban doesnt solve anything as if men in pants dont harass women or expose… our administrators are acting like a bunch of mororns banning everything on sight.

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    • I have a weirder story than hairy legs. an auto driver once reached inside his mundu/lungi exposed his shorts and handed me change which he pulled out of his pocket. I wasn’t sure i wanted to accept it after seeing where it had been… i later had second thoughts about whether it was a technique to make ladies give up their change.

      while it might be borderline gross, I choose not to think of it as harassment. or care ab

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        • lol! never thought about that! but yes, while I have no problems with people reaching anywhere into their clothing for non-abusive purposes, it’s still weird to take/hold something when you know where it spent the last x hours…

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  10. I shouldnt say this in front of young minds :-) but however much i admire my husband in pants and suits, the rare sight of him in snowy white vesthi with a wee bit of zari and a soft white kurtha makes my heart tingle :-) so no banning all that ..

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    • Oh, I love my husband in veshti too! I keep hitting on him when he dresses like that, and he gets so uncomfortable by my attention in public :)

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  11. What someone wears and what they look like tells you nothing about whether they are a good human being or a bad human being. There is popular saying that goes something like…”Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. The idea that when men express their sexuality inappropriately it must have been something to do with [usually] a woman’s or in this case their own clothing is reprehensible and obviously out of touch with reality. Ever heard of an Armani clad man who travels in swanky cars and sexually harasses women? Well I have seen it and I have also seen men [and women] wearing ragged clothes help women or call out such men who misbehave with women or mistreat them. There is not dearth of girls and women who can tell you horror stories of men rubbing against them in buses or crowds wearing all sorts of clothes.The point I am trying to make and which others have eloquently made is that a piece of clothing is no warming sign: it will not tell you if somebody is going to commit a despicable act. What people who indulge in sexual harassment are lacking is not a piece of clothing but a basic home-training in how not to be jerks. What they lack is morality and respect for women. I have to say it’s a pretty dim view of men or women if anybody thinks that a piece of clothing or appearance can majorly influence the individual’s character and stop them from either committing a crime or being a victim of one.

    On another note if men’s hairy thighs causes some sort of discomfort, embarrassment or awkwardness, just look the other way. It’s the same thing I’d suggest a man who feels offended at the sight of a woman’s thighs when she wears a short or mini skirt. You have to respect their choices of clothing. If they are not harming you or infringing on your right, you have no right to harm them or call for a ban simply because they show a little bit more skin than you approve of. You have to respect their choices and rights.

    Before I sign off I have to say it’s the first time I have heard men being told not wear something because it makes women uncomfortable. I know that two wrongs don’t make a right, but I chuckled a bit when I thought of people getting a taste of their own medicine. Anyhow jokes apart, I am struck by how little respect our culture has for either women or men!

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  12. My native is coastal region of Karnataka, where the weather is more or less same as in Kerala, and believe me when I say this – that you sweat like crazy over there!
    I’ve worn silk sarees to functions there, and I can safely say that by the end of the day anyone would want to tear of any piece of tight clothing from their body and just put a nighty and breathe! I even tie my nighty around my waist, like a knee length skirt, so that I can walk freely, otherwise sweat from my legs obstructs normal walking!!

    Mundu is weather appropriate, and I don’t find it offensive at all.. Most men walk around bare chested with just a loose hanging dhothi in and around the house. My grandpa did it, my uncles do it…

    Both men and women out there are skimpily dressed.. making them put layers on their body in that humid weather is nothing less than a punishment..

    May be all the perverts should be forced to wear jeans pants in that weather.. that would be punishment enough!

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    • I like this idea of making them wear jeans as punishment in hot, humid weather. In fact, mundus should be handed out as a reward for good behaviour. Mundus are not only weather-appropriate, but they look nice too when they are worn well. The hairy thighs bit, well, you might as well tell farmers in Bengal/Bihar/UP not to wear the langotiya dhoti. That’s the way working class people wear their clothes. Get over it already. Put the perverts in designer jeans in mid-May and watch them squirm.

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  13. A particular dress can never be a problem to others… It is the chauvinistic attitude and provocative behavior of the person wearing it that disturbs others. It is this attitude that needs to be corrected.. No use in hating or banning a piece of fabric.

    It is fine if people wear a mundu or dhoti because they feel comfortable in it. People who wear it only for comfort will not have the urge to keep lifting it up. The cloth itself is loosely woven and allows air circulation.. where then is the necessity to keep lifting it up till the thighs? Those who tie it high up or keep lifting it have a taunting chauvinistic attitude. They use use this fabric as a tool to exhibit their taunting behavior.

    This ban is kind of ridiculous…banning mundu or lungi or dhoti will not stop those men who provocate women by showing their thighs… These men may just switch over to shorts while driving auto rickshaws! Probably this ban will lead to open discussions on the adv and disadv of mundu…

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