Advisories : Reading between lines

Advisories : Reading between lines

The unabated incidence of rape that has been rocking the country since the outraging of the modesty of a 23-year-old by a gang in a moving Delhi bus...

The unabated incidence of rape that has been rocking the country since the outraging of the modesty of a 23-year-old by a gang in a moving Delhi bus in December last appears to have had an unexpected impact on international conferences being held in India.

Organisers don't want to take any chances with women delegates who descend in large numbers on venues and stay in hotels far from the convention centres. If these are located in and around Delhi whose notoriety as the rape capital of India has spread far and wide, the conveners want to be extra careful in transporting women delegates to the venue and back.

Even if every safety measure is taken, something can go wrong like the kind of dress they wear or the body parts they bare just to escape the Indian summer or to give them extra tan. In a country where men are running amok when they see a species called female, that too if they are fair skinned, the temptation of getting closer will be intense.

Should any such thing happen, it will be a disaster and reflect on the poor arrangements made by the event organizers. Since many police and civil officials in the government as well as ministers believe that women should not be so dressed as to provoke base instincts in men and make them lose mental balance and perform uncivilized acts, the onus is on the females to dress modestly, talk without giving any hint of intimacy, behave touch-me-not way and desist from being over-friendly. In a nutshell, don't dress to kill and if you have killer looks, hide them!

These are only precautionary measures to prevent one's modesty being outraged but not foolproof protective steps that call for martial arts skills. Nevertheless, once the delegates were forewarned � like wild life warning boards in national parks � the duty of organizers is over. Should anything happen, God forbid, they should not feel guilty or be accused of leaving the guests to the mercy of sex-hungry men.

So, the Asian Development Bank which is holding the 46th annual meeting in Greater Noida has issued an advisory to over 4,000 delegates, of whom a sizeable number is women, on do's and don'ts during their India visit. If one follows the advice in letter and spirit, it is strictly business without pleasure.

The advisory, posted on ADB website's general information section, covers every aspect of their short stay in the country. For instance, women have been advised to dress modestly, without exposing legs; not to kiss and embrace (in public) to embarrass Indians; not to get mistaken for gay couple if two guys are holding hands.

There are more about sharing food and water and general behavior in public. But these are general advisories that go out to delegates whenever an international conference is held in any part of the world. But some of the ADB suggestions are out of tune with the present reality, though they have been issued with the intention of not hurting the sensibilities of Indians. But if the august members think that Indian society is as conservative as it is described in the advisory, they may be in for shock if they visit some of the hip areas of Delhi and Noida.

Talking of advisories, circulars sent to offices in the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East are worth mentioning. They are mainly meant for the large expat non-Muslim workforce that doesn't observe fast during the day. Do's and don'ts include drinking water and eating in public during the fasting hours, talking disparagingly about Islamic traditions, customs and rituals and violating the sanctity of Ramadan (Ramzan in India). Those who fall foul of law during that period can be imprisoned or fined. It happens generally with construction workers who are unaware of Ramadan customs in Mideast and Gulf Arab States.

Failure to issue advisories can land event organizers and participants in trouble, as happened recently in ultra- conservative Saudi Arabia where stringent rules prohibit interaction between unrelated males and females. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice that oversees the observance of moral laws by all residents in the kingdom got three artists deported from a heritage and culture festival in Riyadh. Reason: They are too handsome and the Saudi religious police feared that women visitors would fall for them. The trio is from the United Arab Emirates and one of them is said to be a photographer, model, actor and poet with killer looks. And, his Facebook fans are mostly women.

The Saudi fest organizers should have sent an advisory to the participating countries something like this: No entry for handsome men to the festival! In a diplomatic snafu, when Saudi neighbour Qatar insisted on covering the vital parts of two ancient nude statues Greece had sent for an exhibition on Olympics, Athens shipped them back instead of obliging the request of Qatar which thought nudity would offend women's sensibilities.

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