New Delhi: Does the
burqa symbolise oppression? And the bikini signify liberation?
Giving a different viewpoint, laced with humour, experts at a
discussion here spoke about how the two do coexist and will continue
to do so.
Going against popular perception that a woman clad in a burqa is
forced to do so and is oppressed, Fatima Bhutto, writer and activist
from Pakistan, said that in many cases, it's a woman's choice to be
"In Pakistan, more and more women are choosing to keep their heads
covered because they want to follow their custom and tradition. They
are making a political statement by wearing the hijab or the
burqa... the burqa is also a symbol of resistance," Bhutto said at
the India Today Conclave in the capital.
"A burqa is not representative of closed-mindedness, but just an
alternate viewpoint. An interesting example is the Fulla barbie in
the Middle East. She is your typical barbie doll, but wearing a
hijab and full sleeved clothes. However, she has a cell phone, a
hand bag, a car and a brush. And the tagline is 'a girl's dream
doll'," she added.
Bhutto went on to say that it's "ironical" that most vociferous
reaction to the burqa comes from people "who have never worn one".
Talking about the bikini, feminist writer Germaine Greer, said:
"Bikini is not a symbol of liberation. In fact I think it's quite a
disfiguring garment. Ninety-nine percent women look dreadful in it
and they know that. Females are naturally fat bottomed, but nobody
looks so in a burqa!"
Even as her comments drew laughter from the audience, she continued
on a more serious note: "You can't liberate people by force. In
Britain, a lot of girls are choosing to wear the burqa. They say
that they feel more free within the burqa from the gaze of men. The
history behind the wearing of burqa is the same."
The speakers threw a whole lot of questions about the perception of
"Modernisation should not be about merchandising ourselves. It
should be about freedom to have our choices. Liberation is not about
removing fabric. In Britain, the Sikh population had to battle it
out to wear the turban, now women are fighting a similar fight to
wear the hijab," Greer said.
On the burqa ban in France, Bhutto said that instead of liberating
women, it will just force women to further go "underground", away
from the mainstream.
The speakers capped the discussion with a unanimous conclusion that
the burqa and the bikini do coexist and will continue to do so.
"They can coexist but I think both will wither away with time,"