In a time warp

Despite an array of young and progressive leaders,Haryana sets new bars for casual sexism

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 11, 2012 3:12:13 am

Despite an array of young and progressive leaders,Haryana sets new bars for casual sexism

Haryana’s women and child welfare department has announced a new code for its staff — “to wear decent clothes in office”. What constitutes decent is also made clear. The options are limited to sari and salwar kameez for women,“pant-shirt” for men. Jeans,t-shirts,dresses and other western clothing are off-bounds for women. Recently,the Haryana government had announced that pregnant women could no longer be recruited as schoolteachers,and only withdrew the rule after loud protest.

The Haryana administration’s reflexes shouldn’t be a surprise. After all,what does an old-fashioned dress code matter,when it is a common assumption in the state that a woman’s life choices are not her own? The sex ratio,among the worst in India,tells its own story of the terrible devaluing of daughters. Khap panchayats,the Jat social structures that once served as forums for dispute resolution,now patrol the bounds of caste and clan,and intimidate families into killing their own if they happen to fall in love with someone within the gotra. These “honour killings” are rarely punished,because these social structures are electorally useful,and the police and administration are reluctant to act.

What remains baffling to outsiders is how,despite its array of young and apparently progressive political leaders,from Kumari Selja to Deepender Hooda and Naveen Jindal,Haryana’s politics and administration continue to operate in a time warp. In fact,some of Haryana’s young political leaders had defended these murderous khaps,and demanded that custom and ceremony be respected. They espouse one set of liberal,modern values in Delhi and appear to go along with another reality in their own state. Haryana’s problems go deeper than a dress code.

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