Empowered or oppressed?
I found this photograph on BBC:
This photograph intrigued me recently. The photograph depicts a demonstration in Kashmir by women protesting against the recent sex scandal involving top state police officials. Some of the protests have turned violent because of the conservative nature of the Muslims in the Kashmir valley who view this scandal as an outrage on their social mores.
Isn't it ironic that a woman, covered from head to toe, is protesting against exploitation of other women? Does she realize that to an untrained eye, unfamiliar with the concepts of women dressing up modestly in Islam, she seems to be the oppressed one? In fact, just by looking at the photograph out of context, I felt that she is protesting against her own plight. But this is not the case here.
Of course, apologists for this kind of dress code for women will argue with me that, hopefully, nobody forced the woman in the snapshot to wear the burqa. She wore it out of her own volition because of her sense of what is appropriate in her society. Who am I to comment on the cultural practices of other societies?
I do not buy this argument. Although the above argument has its merits, yet I believe that there is something really uncomfortable in any culture that seeks to hide its women like this. This is not in consonance with the evolutionary trends of human civilization all over the world. It seems to be a form of oppression that has been given a moral justification by embedding it in the basic ethos of the concerned society.