Damn! It’s back to that exceedingly annoying blame game. The French got it right when they coined the phrase ‘Cherchez La Femme’ . Since it gets lost in translation, I’m not going to explain its meaning. A few days ago, two nasty news items created ripples. One featured an attention-seeking photographer exploiting a national outrage (Nirbhaya) in a fashion shoot. The other, a TDP M.P. named Murli Mohan, who got up in Parliament and advised the women of India to dress ‘decently’ if they wanted to stay safe and not invite rape. Boththese men are equally guilty.

How dare they! Yes, they have given serious offence to society at large and women in particular. One can dismiss the photographer, since he is an opportunistic nobody. His photo shoot is pathetic and provides an insight into his own twisted mind. He claims he was entitled to shoot those awful images (of a skinny model being molested in a bus), since freedom of expression is a privilege every Indian enjoys. He is right. By the same token, he should also be prepared to handle the backlash. There are those who are insisting he is a criminal and should be prosecuted. I am saying, don’t bother. He is not worth the effort.

The M.P. on the other hand is asking for it. When asked to describe ‘decent’, he tripped over his words and finally issued a weak apology. I watched his party colleague tying himself in knots on a television discussion while he attempted to decode ‘decent’.

The best he could come up with, pretty lamely at that, was this: “Indian women should wear traditional Indian clothes.” Pray, what are ‘traditional Indian clothes’? Sarees? Salwarkameezes? Pavdais? Mundu-veshtis? Lungis?Phirans? Caftans? The man bumbled, fumbled and stumbled while women-activists verbally mauled him. He carried on recklessly,and talked about caring for the safety of mothers, daughters and sisters across the country.

Not once did he discuss how he proposes to ensure that, besides imposing an arbitrary dress code on them .Not once did he address the real problem: The beastly mind-set of men who attack defenceless women whether they are fully clothed, half-clothed, senior citizens, infants, teenagers, married, unmarried, good -looking, not-so-good-looking, tall, short, thin, overweight, clever, stupid, educated, illiterate, physically disabled, mentally challenged.

Rape has NOTHING to do with women’s clothing. Get it?

The bald truth is a high number of rural rapes take place when women are forced to use distant fields to relieve themselves, since there are no toilets in the village. Why are we running away from this basic reality? When female infants are brutalised… when little girls travelling in dedicated school vans are attacked, does that have anything to do with their attire? Who are these men to take it upon themselves to dictate a dress code for women, when they ought to be fighting for tougher laws, effective legislation and swifter reforms in parliament?

I’ll tell you who they are: men like Murli Mohan are the ones who believe independent minded women ‘ask for it’ if they don’t conform to an outdated, hypocritical notion of ‘decent’ clothing. These same men are the first ones to pass lewd comments when they spot a woman wearing anything other than a tent that covers her from top to toe. It is they who undress a woman mentally, no matter what she is wearing. It is they who cannot control their base thoughts…. their cheap fantasies…. their aggressive sexual urges…. and finally, their violence.

It is such men who have to be reminded firmly and unambiguously that what we choose to wear is our business and our business alone. Just as women are not advising men on their wardrobes (pretty awful), men should leave our sartorial decisions to us. It was a matter of deep disappointment that women Parliamentarians ( barring a few) chose not to oppose Murli Mohan. Why the complicit silence? Rahul Gandhi may have been taking his usual siesta to recover from the earlier exertion of rolling up his kurta sleeves and running to the well of the House. But the other men who were wide awake also chose to stay out of it. Shame!

The onus of preventing rape is not on women. Never was. Never will be. It is on men.

Decency is about what’s inside your head. Not on what covers or uncovers a woman’s body