‘Make Men Wear Veils and They will Understand our Difficulties’

Every morning, Prabhawati goes about her daily household tasks, cleaning and feeding the cattle before she sets out for her job at the local Anganwadi (child care centre) in her village. Like many women from rural northern India she covers her face. This is normalized to such an extent, that it does not, at first glance, seem anything out of the ordinary, but Prabhawati challenges this practice with vehemence in an on-camera conversation with Community Correspondent Mahesh Kumar: “Why don’t men wear veils too? What law exempts them from it? Let them wear veils and then they’ll understand our difficulties.”

Prabhawati talks about the taunts she has to endure if ever she is seen without the veil. “If I don’t cover my head, men will ridicule me saying that I’ve become a big leader”, she says. As an anganwadi worker, she has responsibilities outside the home as well. “When I go for a meeting, I cover my head, when I go to school to teach, I cover my head.” If she doesn’t, people from her community take it upon themselves to come to her home and inform her family about her ‘disrespectful transgression’.

This may seem shocking but the valorisation of patriarchal values and moral policing is unquestioningly adopted even by the state. Consider this: in the March issue of the journal Krishi Samvad, the Haryana government published a picture of a veiled woman captioned ‘a woman in a ghoonghat is the identity of Haryana’.

Read the article by Alankrita Anand and Madhura Chakrabort