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"Dos and don'ts of personal attire based on misconception"

Staff Correspondent

Dress code is not the answer, writes Poornima Advani to Bombay University

NEW DELHI: The former National Commission for Women chairperson, Poornima Advani, has said that prescribing dos and don'ts in the area of personal attire was based on the misconception that rape and other offences against women were caused by "provocative clothes."

In an open letter to the Bombay University Vice-Chancellor on the recent dress code for women students, Ms. Advani said that this misconception shifted the responsibility for the offence from the perpetrator to the victim and was regressive, she said in her letter.

Writing in her capacity as a former student and university faculty member, Ms. Advani said universities, like all other public organisations, had a responsibility to follow the guidelines enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Visakha case in 1997 to prevent sexual harassment of women.

These guidelines required the authorities concerned to set up complaint committees with proper third party and NGO representation, and give wide publicity to what constitutes harassment, the channels for making complaints and the procedure for handling such grievances.

"It would be better that the Bombay University does some introspection on how far they are complying with these mandatory guidelines — in letter and in spirit — rather than go on a tangent and brand the would-be victims for their `provocative attire'," she said.

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