In Afghanistan you still see women wearing a chador – you know the one I mean, the light blue top to toe cover-all that makes them walk funny because they can’t see the pavement very well. Bit of asking around learned that probably around half of them do it because they choose to do so. Basically they want to avoid being pinched and groped by the men. Now, where I come from that is not acceptable behaviour and as my father always said, no man has any right to do that. One of the local girls I spoke to relayed the story about going on the bus during Taliban time. Girls would sit in the back behind a divider which could be just a sheet or a curtain. Men would sit in the front. Unsurprisingly, men would like to sit as close to the divider as possible and try and touch one of the ladies up. She told me how she developed a very accurate aim with a handbag. If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be funny.
Is this the right approach though? Surely it’s not the women who should be worried about being pinched and groped but the men who should be told that this is unacceptable and, more importantly, very disrespectful.
Then again, some of the girls in the office I work complain about the other girls because their clothes are too bright or revealing. But there is a glimmer of hope. One of the girls I work with always wears dark colours. Her husband makes her do it. But she showed me some pictures from a few years ago and boy is this girl making progress changing her husband’s and his family’s perception. Few years ago she wasn’t allowed to work and had to wear baggy shapeless things. Now she has a pretty good job and wears decent work outfits. Nothing particularly revealing, but still a major improvement. On top of that she managed to convince the family that the girls in the family – nieces, sisters in law, all part of the same household - should be allowed to go to English class and have a good education. You go girl!
Dr Natalie Schoon, CFA