Tuesday, December 13, 2011

At the Gray Borders of Female Sexual Mutilation and Porn
(Saturday 10th December, 11.30 am Harley Street, London)

The following headlines are very common regarding to news for Asian African females:
Bohra women go online to fight circumcision trauma
International NGO seeks to raise awareness on female genital Mutilation
Kenyan villagers battle police in defense of female circumcision
Villagers ignore the law and go on a girl circumcision frenzy
What Is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision is a religious tradition of female genital cutting among some sects of Muslims mostly from African countries and in some very rare cases, in Asian countries. The first attempts to forbid this practice were in the 1920s and later in the 1930s by Christian missionaries in Kenya. And till then, the fight against such sexual violence against females has been originated from time to time. The practice has been condemned due to serious long-term health hazards by medical practitioners. Because the urethral opening is covered, repeated urinary tract infections are common, and stones may form in the urethra and bladder because of obstruction and infection. If the opening is very small, menstrual flow may be blocked, leading to reproductive tract infections and lowered fertility or sterility. One early study estimated that 20 to 25 percent of cases of sterility in northern Sudan can be linked to such genital cutting.( Source: A.Z. Mustafa, "Female Circumcision and Infibulation in the Sudan," Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the British Commonwealth, 73:302-306, 1966.)
Feminists see this attempt of genital cutting as a misogynist violence and have launched protests from time to time against this inhuman practice. Different agencies of United Nations (UNICEF, UNFPA, and WHO) have issued a joint position paper and are increasing their efforts to eradicate FGM. WHO recently launched a 15-year strategy to accelerate these efforts.
Whilst this is a common scenario of so-called ‘undeveloped’ or ‘developing countries,’ it also exists in the so-called ‘developed’ countries.
On December 10, 2011, feminists in the United Kingdom gathered in Harley Street in London and staged a protest wearing fake "muffs" and demanding that pornography and cosmetic surgery industries "keep their mitts off our bits." They condemned the rise of female genital cosmetic surgery in Western countries. They named their protest “Muff March,” aimed at blaming the pornified culture promoted by global commercialism which drives women under the knife to get a "designer vagina."
But what is female genital cosmetic surgery anyway? It is actually cosmetic surgery to reconstruct the shape, size and design of the vagina by vaginoplasty (vaginal rejuvenation and tightening) and labia surgery by labiaplasty (labia reduction and beautification), hymenoplasty (reconstruction of the hymento return the ruptured hymen to a pre-sexual state).
Labiaplasty and vaginoplasty can be performed at the same time or in combination with other common plastic and cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty, breast enhancement or reduction, abdominoplasty, or liposculpturing. The supporters and promoters of this surgery claim it aims to recreate sexual excitement, restore self-esteem and rejuvenate the love lives of women. But does it?
The Differences Between FGM in the East and West
What is the difference between then these Eastern FMG and Western FMG?
According to WHO, female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:
Clitoridectomy - partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
Excision - partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
Infibulation - narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
Other - all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. (Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/index.html)
The only difference between Eastern FGM and Western FGM is that the former one is done without any anesthesia and without any expert doctor and the latter one is done with all developed medical methods in a sanitary environment. But both have no health benefits, and they harm girls and women in many ways.
In one of my earlier articles, I condemn the Eastern practice of FGM (though as a result of immigration, FGM has spread to most Western countries) as it is another attempt to control female sexuality by male-dominated societies. But one wonders if Western FGM not becoming a tool for the global commercialism? In 2009, plastic surgeons, not gynecologists, in the US earned an estimated $6.8 million (£4.4 million) from vaginal rejuvenation and labiaplasty while in 2008, the National Health Service in the UK carried out 1,118 labiaplasty operations, compared with 669 in 2007 and 404 in 2006. (Source: The Observer, Sunday, 27 February 2011
The Role of the Media
Even the media are used by the commercial houses to subjugate women to make them pornified so that they could be utilised for income. Channel 4, one of UK’s popular TV broadcaster, in its programme “Embarrassing Bodies,” encourages the it female viewers to soothe insecurity about common bodily issues, refers a woman to a cosmetic surgeon to have her perfectly healthy labia sliced off.(link: http://www.channel4embarrassingillnesses.com/video/embarrassing-bodies/consultation-enlarged-labia/)
Commercial cosmetics business houses try to propagate that such cosmetic FGM is safe reporting 71 percent of women having the procedures report an ‘improved sex life’ and 23 percent report they could reach orgasm more easily after obtaining such operations. But these claims are possibly advertising/marketing-based and cannot always be substantiated. Thus BJOG, an international journal of obstetrics and gynecology has denied these claims in a report published in its 1st issue of Volume 117. Experts (L-M Liao, L. Michala, and S.M. Creighton) write:
“This review has identified almost 1,000 published cases of cosmetic labial surgery. Because the majority of such procedures are performed in the private sector, here audit and publication are not required, and because advertisement, especially via the Internet, is widespread, these figures are likely to represent the tip of the iceberg. No prospective studies were found. Follow-up was not carried out for most studies and, where available, it was of short duration with unspecified or suspect methodology. There was no attempt to compare preoperative morphological measurements with published criteria to assess the need for intervention. Surgery appeared to have been offered on demand, justified by verbal reports of physical and psychological difficulties.” ( Source : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02426.x/pdf)
The Issue of the Rights of Women Over Their Own Bodies
One can argue it might be a question related to the bodies of women and when the feminists are arguing for women’s right over their own body, does this argument become less persuasive when women willingly accept such a practice? Of course, the central theme for women’s bodies/women’s rights implies importance to the rights to autonomy and privacy in making sexual and reproductive decisions as well as the rights to informed consent and confidentiality in relation to health services, to maternal mortality, to lack of procedures for legal abortion, to inadequate allocation of resources for family planning, to coercive population programs, of spousal consent to sterilization, and to occupational discrimination of pregnant women. We should not think that women’s rights over own bodies don’t mean the right to pornify women’s bodies or subjecting a woman to the ideal touted by the global pornography industry.
Unlike radical and social feminists of the second wave, I never think the radical and social feminists’ idea that beauty and fashion subjugate over the power of women. I differ from Naomi Wolf and Ariel Levy when they criticized fashions as a part of the ‘Raunch Culture.’ I am always arguing for the sexual rights of women. I think prohibition on sensual expression of women is also a kind of subjugation and our second-wave feminists and the patriarchal society appear to share the same position in restricting woman for their own means and ends.
But in cases of FGM, we have to remember that the redesigning of the vagina is neither a fashion nor a part of sensual expression, but leads us to a possibility of health hazards. Even its role in sexual orgasm has not been yet established. Secondly, though sexuality has a vital role for a female, can female genital cosmetic surgery prove responsible for any sort of gain in sexual life? Orgasm is completely a psychological phenomena and unless a woman doesn’t immerse in acute attraction and feeling of submission for her partner, it is hard to achieve any satisfaction. In fact, a woman, whose uterus has been removed, can also enjoy a full orgasm. So, the shape and size of any sexual organ doesn’t possess any importance for female sexuality.
But the irrefutable fact of the matter is these cosmetic procedures can make you a ‘commodity’, rather specifically your sex organ as a ‘commodity,’ and this is where pornography comes in. Being a ‘model’ of an art piece and being a ‘porn star’ are not the same. I believe being subject to every sexually explicit topic is not ‘porno,’ but when it makes a woman or parts of her a ‘product’ it’s almost always associated with male-dominant consumerism.
So, let the bodies of women be left for women, not for corporate people or commercialism. Let the bodies of women be figures on their own rather than being figures on the profit & loss ledgers of business.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Aliaa Effect

“Try models who posed naked for Fine Arts students in the 1970s, hide all art books, and destroy all naked statues. Then take off your clothes and look at yourselves in the mirror and burn those bodies of yours which you despise in order to get rid of your sexual complexes forever. Do that before you hurl your discriminatory insults at me or rob me of my freedom of expression.” So wrote a 20-year-old Egyptian girl Aliaa Magda Elmahdy in her blog recently where she also posted nude photos and paintings of herself. Obviously, the post received almost instant global media coverage and provoked outrage in Egypt, a conservative Muslim country where most women wear the veil. Many liberals there fear that Elmahdy’s actions will hurt their prospects in the parliamentary election next week. These photos were also posted on her facebook page and on Twitter and in facebook alone, were viewed by more than 250,000 angry, curious, shocked, or supporting viewers.

Aliaa, who recently dropped out of university, describes herself as a ‘secular liberal feminist vegetarian individualist Egyptian.’ She has been living for the past five months with her boyfriend, blogger Kareem Amer, who, in 2006, was sentenced to four years in a maximum security prison for criticizing Islam and defaming former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. It was first claimed by her boyfriend that she is a member of April 6, an Egyptian political group that came to prominence during the revolution. But soon after this claim, group members denied reports that the young blogger has ties to the pro-democracy group but rather, said she is part of a conspiracy against them. However, after the group’s statement, she denied having claimed any ties with the April 6 movement. “I am not and never was a member of April 6 and I have never claimed such a thing,” she told CNN in a recent interview.

Talking to CNN, Aliaa explains why she did post her nude photo. “I am not shy of being a woman in a society where women are nothing but sex objects harassed on a daily basis by men who know nothing about sex or the importance of a woman.” She further added on a question of sex that most Egyptians are secretive about sex because they are brought up thinking sex is something bad and dirty and there is no mention of it in schools. Sex to the majority is simply a man using a woman with no communication between them and children are just part of an equation. “To me, sex is an expression of respect, a passion for love that culminates into sex to please both sides,” she said.

Though her stand was opposed by many from her orthodox country, a group of forty women across the border in Israel stood behind her and also stripped in a show of solidarity for her and other women in the area and around the world (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2064267/Israeli-women-strip-support-nude-Egyptian-blogger-Aliaa-Elmahdy.html).

Aliaa herself had termed her nude photo campaign as a "scream against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy" and no doubt, she and her blogger boyfriend have been receiving a number of death threats, online complaints, and even a lawsuit, recently filed by the Coalition of Islamic Law graduates for "insulting" the Islamic religion and for "advertizing immorality." On November 22, Aliaa wrote on her facebook page: “I stand by every letter I wrote and every photo I published and will say that I don't acknowledge any laws that limit freedoms or are discriminatory if I was called for investigation”

How It All Relates

Besides the question of women’s rights over their own body and the freedom of self-expression, Aliaa raises two major points in her posts and interviews. One is about the use of the veil and another on the virginity test. On the veil, she comments many women wear it just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets in peace.

Sexual harassment is a serious problem in Egypt. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed (Source: Johnston, “Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?”; see also Magdi Abdelhadi, “Egypt’s sexual harassment ‘cancer,’” BBC News, July 18, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7514567.stm.) However, it cannot be assumed that all women in Egypt are wearing the veil for this one reason. By connecting sexual harassment and the veil, Aliaa gives the impression that the veil is strongly associated with oppression.

Maybe not, though. In some countries, veils are used as a protest. In Europe, where wearing the Islamic veil (hijab/niqab) is banned, women protest wearing it. In Libya, under former ruler Muammar Qaddafi, the Niqab was banned. According to a report from The Economist, women across Libya are now celebrating over the restoration of their right to wear it. In contrast to Aliaa undressing herself in search of freedom of expression, some Libyan women want to dress and wear such clothing to feel themselves in real freedom and real expression in what they believe. What would Aliaa and her boyfriend say? What could they say? Is this not freedom of expression too?

And about virginity test in Egypt, the Human Rights Commission is still probing the cases continuously performing the Military-style brutal test to insert two fingers into vaginas of women to test their virginity in and after Mubarak’s reign. During an interview with CNN, in May, a SCAF general, talking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the army had conducted "virginity tests." "We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," he said. "The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and [drugs].” ( Source: http://uk.ibtimes.com/articles/246877/20111110/egypt-virginity-tests-used-military-humiliate-women.htm). It is true to believe that the military authority who believes in virginity test has no right to raise a question on the grounds of morality?

Aliaa’s Actions: a Help or Hindrance

But do Aliaa’s actions support or hinder a healthy debate on the sexual rights of women?

Sexual rights are often misunderstood and wrongly defined either by feminists or by activists. What do you want to mean by woman’s right on own body? Is ‘body’ an alternate term for ‘sex’ or ‘sexual object?’

Is a ‘woman’s body’ inherently sexual, and can it be used to define any object subjected for passionate feelings only? Is there no need of correlating hunger, sufferings, pain, and shame with that object? Women's bodies are always the issue - too unclean for Hindus, dangerous enough to be covered up for Muslims, and obscured for Christians. We should be more cautious about differentiating these terms carefully. Otherwise there may be every possibility for women to become and remain tools of oppression.

Patriarchal practices shape and perpetuate gender inequality and strip women of any form of control over their sexuality. It is double standard of patriarchy that when it needs to, it allows a woman to disrobe and we can see how the grammar of fine arts are created with the patriarchy accepted social standards of aesthetics and modesty/morality. We see how mythologies played a significant role in focusing a philosophical attitude toward sex. Even the patriarchal effect has been prominent when we find Shakti, the female god is painted with her nudity. When Aliaa disrobes herself, it is patriarchy which shouts with a hefty voice raising the question of morality. But what about other events like fashion shows, beauty contests, or bar girl dances in restaurants and clubs? Morality, in the case of female sexuality, has often been misused or used intentionally to oppress feminine rights and always used by patriarchy as a tool to oppress women.

British feminist and goddess activist Asphodel P. Long (1921-2005) often considered the grandmother of the Goddess Movement in Great Britain once wrote something which can apply to Aliaa’s recent activities. She wrote, “Freud is said to have asked: "What do women want?" Women know what they want. Their difficulty, which is mine, is to find words to describe, and to produce ideas acceptably. Not because we are "silly" but because words and ideas have grown over the last 5,000 years in a patriarchal setting, and describe what men want. Every word, sentence and set of ideas is painful to write, is open to misinterpretation, certainly by men.” (source: http://www.asphodel-long.com/html/politics_of_sexuality.html).

It is explainable why Aliaa did what she did. What she couldn’t do with words, she did with her actions. She boldly spoke volumes using the power of an image -- something to which everyone can relate and understand no matter where they live or what they do or in what they believe.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Empowered yet Stressed

(Photo Courtesy: Reuters)

Women of India are the most stressed in the world, according to a recent survey conducted by Nielson Holdings, a global information and measurement company to measure consumer behavior. Results of the survey show that 87 percent of Indian women surveyed felt stressed while 82 percent of Indian women surveyed felt they had no time to relax. Women from Sweden were the least stressed with 44 percent, according to the survey’s results.

The survey conducted earlier this year included 6,500 women from both developed and developing countries. It was conducted online among women (18 years of age and over) and cut across both social and economic lines.

But why are the women of developing countries in more stress than those of developed countries? Next to Indian women, Mexican women came in second in terms of stress and lack of time with 74 percent. Russia followed with 69 percent, which the survey blamed partly on the intense pace of social change there. Change which took a half century to evolve in developed countries has been compressed into a much shorter time there.

Opportunities in Developed v. Developing Countries (the numbers)

“Women across the globe are achieving higher levels of education, joining the workforce in greater numbers and contributing more to the household income,” said Susan Whiting, vice chair at Nielsen.

Women in developing countries believe their daughters will have even more opportunities then they did relative to their mothers. However, in developed countries, women surveyed believe their daughters will have the same opportunities, not more. In developing countries, 80 percent of women surveyed believe their daughters will have greater financial stability, while in developed countries, only 40 percent of mothers believe so. Eighty-three percent from developing countries believe their daughters will have a better education and 84 percent believe their daughters will have better access to technology. The figures in developed countries are 54 percent for education and 74 percent for better access to technology.

The survey also showed women talk 28 percent more and text 14 percent more than men every month and more than half of women in both developed (average 56 percent) and developing (average 71 percent) countries say the computer, mobile phones and smart phones have changed their lives for the better.

But the survey reports do not enter into the cause of stresses of women.

Possible Reasons for Stress Among Women Living in India

If we consider an Indian woman’s position in the family and in society, we find it she has yet to establish any real self-identity. Urban Indian women have changed a lot whilst society has remained static. For example, a woman has to take charge of the kitchen, even if she is an earning member of the family and has to go outside for her job. The husband will not take charge of the kitchen, though he remains unemployed, as it is a given for a man to cook for his family is against his manhood. Thus, a woman must walk a tightrope juggling a career and a busy home life as well as conform to traditional social standards.

Even if she is employed at the time of her marriage, the groom’s family still demands furniture, jewelry, and expensive household items, and even homes and expensive foreign holidays as modern dowries.

On the other hand, a woman who has been brought up with very orthodox cultural restrictions and was taught not to love anyone before marriage, at once expected by her parents that she would love a well-placed boy and would lessen the burden of a dowry with her love marriage. This double standard cultural temperament is also a cause of stress for unmarried woman, though the survey overlooked these social problems and concentrated more on economical aspects.

In the case of an unmarried woman, pronounced a spinster even in her late twenties, she brings shame upon her parents and is a burden. This is a cause for stress as well.

The Results (in order of the most stressed to the least stressed):

India: 87%

Mexico: 74%

Russia: 69%

Brazil: 67%

Spain: 66%

France: 65%

South Africa: 64%

Italy: 64%

Nigeria: 58%

Turkey: 56%

UK: 55%

USA: 53%

Japan: 52%

Canada: 52%

Australia: 52%

China: 51%

Germany: 47%

Thailand: 45%

South Korea: 45%

Malaysia: 44%

Sweden: 44%

The full survey may be accessed HERE.

A Call for Your Input

The table shows Indian women being more stressed than women of any other developed country. I hope this survey will shed some light and assist us for further research and study. But what are the socio economic causes for these stresses?

I solicit and welcome the opinions of my readers to find out and channelize the reasons behind the stresses of Indian women which the survey officially leaves out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Recently in several European countries, a tendency to ban this full-body covering burqa or the face-covering ‘hijab’ has been seen and as governments there are trying to outlaw this dress code, which is pushing many countries toward a debate.

While blogging on this topic, I asked my Facebook friends whether ‘burqa’ should be banned or not and what they shared with me as their comments and opinions are as below. It is needn’t to say that the comments are neither edited nor moderated.

Raj Sharma No Burqa is not possible to banned. its the simble of Muslim women Izzet....

Kalim Ullah BURQA or even any tradition, if government tries to change forcefully it has an adverse effect. Traditions are changed by evolution, discussion always help and positive effect.

In past SHAH Iran try to change the tradition unwisely, everyone can see the consequence.

Kalim Ullah BURQA is not part of Islamic faith, but a tradition of Muslim women of subcontinent and some other part Islamic world. Try to change forcefully this tradition tantamount to strengthen the hands of fundamentalist.

Gaurangi Patel Yes, it should be banned:It sabotages individual/female right & freedom to choose & wear whatever, whichever way they want to be 'in'.They are not the choosers here...it is predecided, & they follow wearing burqua,due to religious/social/community rules/conventions.

Albert Ashok Saroj, I appreciate your zeal you feel on your topics, I wonder how many women stay under burqa through out the world, and how many remain out of burqa, what is their % percent, which side has the freedom and enjoy their life more than othe...See more

Gaurangi Patel It is each individual's right & prerogative to select & be confident,comfortable & 'feel good' in the atire that they chhose to be in...WHY, in the nam eof "God", literary speaking(!) should ANYBODU else decide for them...?THEN, if a few chooses to move in Burqua, fine...let them be...!

Albert Ashok In 2008, I had drawn a cartoon on this topic friends can see that @ http://cartoonin.blogspot.com/2008/09/hijab-and-women.html ( copy and paste onto your browser) I have some views also there. Saroj, if you want you can use it too...

Gaurangi Patel While 'issuing' compulsions to wear burquas, the msg seems loud & clear:1 (by male of course:We are born oglers! Beware of us...try not to tempt us...or else...u know...:) 2."You are merely an object in our eyes,so, just 'follow',period!No questions asked...we have convincing answers, in any case...These, are, only to 'protect' you...again, by us:)

Gaurangi Patel sorry:"ogglers"

Alfia Wallace oglers is fine too.

Gaurangi Patel Oh O..thanks!

Vashini Sharma certainly it should be banned !

Nimmi James I don't think it is to be banned... I think it is easy to wear over the kitchen dress to go out immediately.But should not force to wear..give freedom to choose and wear...

Bandana Pattanaik Interesting topic and timely too. The question ultimately is should others/ state/ religion/ and other moral guardians decide what women should or should not wear. I would like to share a friend's response to a question I asked her recently. We had met many years ago. At that time she wore her 'hijab' and never wet out without it. She also wore very 'traditional' clothes. When we met again after nearly 8 years she looked very different. No 'hijab', no long clothes etc. I asked her what brought about the change. Her answer: "I haven't changed. When I was growing up there was a social/state pressure to modernize. Hijabs were looked down upon. So I decided to wear them. I did not want people to think I was less progressive just because I wear a certain kind of dress. Now things have changed. There is pressure from a certain section of the state and society to wear Hijab. The moral police is tracking every move of women. If we are seen with men who are not related to us, we are told that it is 'immoral.' So to defy this attitude I gave up my hijab and changed my style of dressing. You see I have always been a rebel."

Rekha Joshi Mukherjee ...to each his own actually...who am i to disagree???? burqua or hijab is a very personal choice with some women..and the family traditions they adhere to...recently i was in kashmir and found that the society is very supportive of women's education and over all well being...i never came across a single woman sporting a burqua...yes,they cover their heads..as we also do wen we visit any place of religious importance...and guess the weather usually remains very cold so it helps wen the head is covered....talking about women all over-wearing this drape,yes,as gaurangi said,it helps keeping the women-folk safe from the ogglers..hahaha ( guess it originated from there )..any law enforcement will not help here i think...those who wish to cover-up..wil always do so..and many have voluntarily moved on with the times...

Fide Erken What if they would choose not to wear it themselves.If it is banned, their wish to wear it will increase I think.

Nahid Osman wearing burqa is hiding her own identity......

Rupa Hazarika I have seen most of the women like to wear respective traditional dresses. Even I have seen our honourable president smti prativa patel always remain under the half veil of sari. Late smti Indira ji our former prime minister and many of such reputed and famous women who contributed a lot to the society by staying under half veil. I have seen my mother and mother in law too like to stay under half veil. Wearing of traditional/religious dress doesn’t mean that an women’s freedom is banned because many incidents like sexual abuse etc often takes place due to our so called modern wearing which expose women’s body only . I feel women need to increase enough mental strength , moral senses and courage to overcome obstacles in her life as well as contribute something meaningful to the society it does not matter what she wear burqa / sari under the half veil

Kshirod Parida Who will ban & for whom? It is a religion linked dress.Those who believe strongly they are using.Lot of women having modern education are not using.Dress has its own style & believe. When it will be banned,certainly it may a debate or disturbance in the society.Many people have taken it as option. in my opinion it should be left to the user or believer. There should not be any legal stand or force on it.After few years the taste and temperament may lead it in a different direction for the user.Let it be as such.Let them as they like.

Jaya Nair Sarojini, thank you once again for highlighting topics that can bring to the surface of any issues surrounding it. To allow everyone to express their views and to understand the logic behind it.

I've been in this country for almost all my life. My schooling, college and married life too in this country, as all my family are all here too.

Never seen a burqa until we traveled to Kerala on holidays and transit in the middle east. That was my 1st ever view of a burqa.

The explosion of women wearing burqa started happening just after the 911. I've been curious to know and was told it's not for religious purpose but for protection from sandstorms in the desert.

Why all of a sudden this urge to cover up?

Why decorate it with blingy objects and stones, if the purpose is to keep a low profile?

Why wear so much make-up, especially eye make-up? It attracts the opposite sex, which this costume is clearly trying not to do.

Some use it to leave the house in and takes it off and walk around in normal clothing and a lot of make-up and burqa back on to return home.

Why the deceit? Who are you doing it for? This is 2011, now 1011.

One of our regular customer, now in her 40's started wearing burqa recently but her attitude continues as before. She will do as she pleases and rise to the occasion as she desires. She smokes, gambles (it's forbidden in the quaran, i was told),swears in Hindi, Urdu, English at everyone she dislikes.

She has gone to Mecca several times. I was also told that you become humble and calmer. Many seem to do the opposite and feel as if they're above everyone. Holy place don't make the visitor Holy.

She even slapped a man in our shop. She was checking the scratch card (gambling in another form)at the counter, blocking this gentleman from being served. There was no physical contact for her to react in this manner. He didn't say or do anything, just walked away, respecting her burqa.

Sometimes she comes to the shop without burqa. At times, she has to lift the burqa for me to recognise her. It's against the law to serve cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets to under age. A hefty fine and prison sentence for the owner for not following the right procedures in identity checks. A person wearing a burqa is not easily identifiable, to know the age of that person or if it is that person they claim to be.

It could be Miss X (17yr old) bringing identity card of Miss Y (18yrs old or over).

The shop keeper is now in a dilemma of whether to serve or not. To ask the person to remove it would be breach of 'Human Rights'.

Burqa is a regular and normal scene everywhere nowadays, some wear it for convenience and other for their religious reasons.

This subject is quite confusing, nobody wants to talk about it. Many fear for being victimised or labelled as anti-burqa or Muslim.

I do strongly oppose wearing burqa whilst driving or be in a place where safety is number one priority. How much vision is obscured by it? I've had so many close encounters with accidents due to women wearing burqa.

Why wear burqa in the enclosure of your car? No one can see you long enough to turn them on.

At banks, ports, airport and places where your face should be identified for safety checks for obvious reasons. It could be anyone under the burqa. No one should be exempt from thorough safety checks at places quoted above.

Men would like to keep their wife/wives covered due to their insecurity.

One of my colleague had to evict a girl wearing a burqa from the cinema theatre for indecent behaviour with her boyfriend. Wearing a burqa does not make you invisible.

What has changed, for the burqa wearing in other countries other than Muslim countries as it was before? Muslim religion was existent before, nothing new.

We've had incidents, where a Muslim woman goes for a job interview, minus the burqa. When she is appointed, turns up wearing one. The employer asked her to remove it and was taken to court for human rights reasons. There have been other incidents, were granted compensations for their loss of job or pain endured.

One was a hairdressers job and the other was a school.

Why did they turn up for the interview without their burqa? At least inform their future employer of their intention to wear one in employment. The confusion and the distress caused could have been avoided.

Do you know how it feels like, to be in the presence of a faceless one? Not comfortable.

How would people feel, if everyone walked around with balaclava? Not pleasant or safe. Right?

Sorry, for the length of this note. Thank you.

Albert Ashok Jaya, I agree with you. you have some logic and reasoning with your words. Thank you

Albert Ashok Many people thinks veil is religious and traditional. My view point is :: it was not a practice from a certain point of an ancient time. society has created this in a particular geographic area and imposed it by some type of force. made it a regular practice by brainwashing. A generation was born within black cover . adaptation accepted and human society divided. one is exposing identity another hiding identity. lets society get educated and civilisation will wipe what is not necessary.

Mumtaz Mazumdar whts the problem with it maam? i myself wear it often. its related to our 'iman' (faith). if muslims have no problem with it, why does it always tickle others?? we shall live and die to save it!!

Jaya Nair Mumtaz, you wear it often or all the time? It's not about tickling anyone but when it's used for convenience. As stated before, i strongly oppose it being worn when safety is at risk. If it's to do with faith, why weren't they wearing it before? Why the explosion of it now? My daughter's friend started wearing it few years ago and now she refuses to wear it. Her explanation is that she felt suffocated and not herself. She feels free and much happier now.

Gaurangi Patel Yes, Jaya, absolutely right...

Albert Ashok According to a new study, conservative Muslim dress codes might be causing serious health problems for Muslim women: http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2007/06/burqas_vitamin_d_and_religion.php

Albert Ashok Enveloping outer garments, such as the burqa, are believed to cause or worsen medical conditions in some individuals. In particular, they contribute to a predisposition for hypovitaminosis D, which can lead to rickets or osteoporosis and may increase the risk of seizures in infants born to affected mothers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa

Gaurangi Patel This won't b out of place: esp in villages in India: women use sari as a veil, cook on "chullhaas", even in scorching heat, or gas-stove, N many hav caught fire...unlike 'burning' the lady

Albert Ashok All women should be left in their liberty and comfort: Lets women decide their own thing and rule their lives. Why religion and tradition dictate them? This world has nothing to do in keeping women in chain.

Kalim Ullah BURQA is not part of Islamic faith, but a tradition of Muslim women of subcontinent and some other part Islamic world. Try to change forcefully this tradition tantamount to strengthen the hands of fundamentalist.

AjAy Kumar Bohat Bikini Should be BANNED.....

Kalim Ullah In my opinion there are two options

1. It should be ban by government, lady police deploy at road equipped with scissors any woman found wearing BURQA her BURQA is cut. This action is supposed to be legal, or any method supported by force not will.

2. A law should be passing that anyone forcing a woman evens her husband or father to wear BURQA should be punished, police can be called by victim which take swift action.

This law should be published in newspapers to enhance awareness.

The first one further aggravate the problems, the second one will lead to eradicate this old tradition. Wearing BURQA is a tradition not by Islamic faith.

But a significant number of Muslim women like to wear BURQA for various reasons, so no one should object. BURQA is not as inhuman like wearing chastity belts, but certainly a bar of woman freedom, which should be resolved wisely.

Mumtaz Mazumdar serious health problems? by burkha? oh really! i have seen my grandmothers being in purdah for more than 70 -80 years, and they some of the most beautiful and healthiest skins! in west, whites are getting skin cancers due to over-exposure to sun! how many muslim women died due to burkha-wear?

Mumtaz Mazumdar its just another way to trouble the muslim community. Sarkozy has semi-nude Carla Bruni. He wants to see more skins. a satanic man who is just too curious to the purdah-nashin muslim women!

Mumtaz Mazumdar we never stumble wearing burkhas. iran has all its women clad in burkhs. more than 70% teachers and students in their univs are burkha-clad females there. nuclear world of iran consists of more than 60% black-burka women. do they keep on falling and studying and researching there? in mecca and medinah, females are policewomen and in other authorities there, all clad in burkha. running the administration. and so on. one of my sister-in law is a gynacologist in a famous hospital in jeddah, from 15 years. she never told us that burkha has harmed her intelligence, confidence, mother and wife's duties or duties as professional? limited information upon the uses of burkha leads us to be against it. burkha rather makes us feel more at home in and carefree. health comes from food, environment and the sun is very strong to be able to penetrate inside the burkha. or else, long back the middleeast women would have been wiped out due to burkha. they have world's one of the most stable female ratio. sometimes, it exceeds males even.

Mumtaz Mazumdar Sarkozy is naughty boy. you see how he changes wives! like the colourful clothes! and people call him the icon of youth! in that case, we should expect our women, to used and thrown by men. this will be more problematic than the so-called problem with burkha.

Supriya Panda Why any dress be either "imposed" or" banned" when it is the liberty of an individual to select a dress as per his/her choice and catering to he comfort-zone.And why Burqa and no reference to many gents in some Middle East country who

J. Barrett Wolf Banning the burqa is a discriminatory act against one particular religion. It is morally no different than banning jeans and flannel shirts - or any of the regular things I wear -because the legislators felt that maybe, somewhere, somebody could hide a gun in them.

In both cases it is true at a weapon or a bomb can be concealed in clothing. So, the defining difference is the influence of anti-Islamic sentiment, driven by both simple fear and the inability to differentiate between those people who pose a danger and the Islamic religion as a whole.

Amit Ranjan Burqa is remnant of medieval oppression of women. Must not it must it be banned immediately but should also be deleted from the human psyche forever! It is another negativity of our global society which I vehemently detest. Global=all religion, cast, creed, nationality and even gender!

Pradeep Biswal Leaving aside the religious part of it it should not be mandatory for women.It symbolises a mediavall mindset of men.

Tariq Ahmed Siddiqi Burqa seems to be illogical. But why French Governement banned the Scarf? Why a Muslim girl cannot wear a Scarf in Schools there? A Muslim lady wants to cover her head and for this she wears Scarf. What is wrong in it?

Himalayan Voice We had a chance to see a photo being taken by a man somewhere in the Middle East. The man was taking photo of 3/4 women in 'burqa thing posing triumphantly'. We were flatly amazed and asking ourselves, why would have the man needed to ta...

Jyoti Prasad Pattnaik Burqa is just not a religius problem but a veil to protect someone from the harsh weather. And that is why It can be advocated that the forceful use of this veil may be diminished but a BAN can never imposed. Since this is the dress that women in the middle east countries wore not only as a compulsory dress code but as a piece of cloth which saved them from the sand sttorms and other harmful rays of the sun. I think if someone is forcing us to wear burqa it should be blamed but it can not be banned...

Ajay Sinha Is it need of today?

Amit Ranjan Burqa is remnant of medieval oppression of women. Must not it must it be banned immediately but should also be deleted from the human psyche forever! It is another negativity of our global society which I vehemently detest.Global=all religion, cast, creed, nationality and even gender!

Hemant Kumar Pillai burqa is like ghoonght(veil) and it is symbol of regard elders and keep dignity.

Vidya Bhandarker I would say now if we are still talking about India-and we have a democracy here. There are pitfalls true especially with the security issues however I still say no the burqa should not be banned:)

Vidya Bhandarker I have travelled lived across the world East and West and I have realized one thing about the strength of my nation-Not America, Europe-we in India are the most secular and democratic people. I talk of the silent majority and not the rabble rousing politicians. Our Muslim brotherhood in India is largely the most Sufi in its leanings. I talk again of the majority and not the minority rabble rousers. Stereotyping of our folk have gone to the nadir-not fair. Burqa is fine if they are comfortable with it. :)

Vidya Bhandarker Liking is not enough come and say it :) opine:)

Pullin Kapadia There are people who are not modern as we are and I feel its not good to provoke them butr simultaneously if a Muslim wants to come of the present situation and adjust to the modern times than at times he should be willing to let go off this particular Burqa system but enforcing ban on Burqa is going against the belief of some which creates dishormony in society as it their part of their culture since ages

Vidya Bhandarker With due respect I think banning a burqa is literally asking a Hindu woman not to were a bindi or a sikh to remove his turban. This is as you rightly say a matter of choice. Ethnic identity/social identity is part of individual identity. The law in a democracy should not come into it. I however do feel ethnic identity is not about modernity-it represents the "I " in a person. I was in Washington for long, but if there is a social invite I did go with my saree and bindi

Vidya Bhandarker Not a suit or dress:)

Pullin Kapadia Yes Definitely agree with your views Vidya but simultaneously if you are talking of Democracy and the views of different cultures than the thought should be on We and not I as India is a democratic Country with different cultures and various caste of people and keeping everybody in mind your statement stands on solid ground with a indepth foundation and it is these values of we all Indians that have kept us united at times of distress also.

The discussion is also liked by Anurag Gogoi, Susan Reinhard, Kiran Gill, Yam Desor,Santosh Kumar, Sujata Singh, Gaurangi Patel, Natalia Turisheva, Erbc Pattanayak, Ajay Sinha, Jyoti Prasad Pattnaik, Joseph Thambi, Sramit Jajodia,Himalayan Voice, Kumar Ritesh, Rekha Joshi Mukherjee, Santosh Kumar Satapathy, Alfia Wallace, Mumtaz Mazumdar, Hemant Kumar Pillai

My original blogging 'Banning the Burqa: What’s Really Being Hid?' can be read HERE