Shadow-boxing

Moral policing has gone to ridiculous lengths with the Bruhanmumbai Municipal Corporation passing a resolution to ban the display of mannequins in lingeries or skimpy clothes outside garment shops. The ostensible reason is that the semi-nude dummies in public view would be perceived by onlookers as sex toys and would embarrass passing women.

The more important reason for sending the plastic figures out of eye sight is that their sight would provoke men to commit crimes against women. The leading campaigner for the ban, a corporator from the BJP, believes that the shamelessly dressed dummies would ‘’pollute the minds of today’s generation’’, and a Shiv Sena corporator believes that their disappearance would make the streets safer for women. The entire civic body closed political ranks, and all 226 corporators, men and women, young and old, unanimously invoked the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act to banish the dummies. 

The argument that provocatively dressed women invite sexual crimes on themselves and are therefore to be blamed for the adverse consequences has been put forward even by policemen. But it is for the first time that the argument has been extended to inanimate objects. The Khajuraho sculptures which sport no dress at all are not known to have inspired crimes against women. The logic of objection to dummies can now be extended to them too, or to advertisements of women’s garments anywhere. There is no limit to moral indignation and a skimpy garment, even without a woman, may not pass muster. 

Mannequins are not art which will be defended for their beauty and lasting value. They are poor cousins, sometimes even ungainly representations of an idea,  with a passing life as signposts of business. To turn them into windmills of moral corruption and contamination and to wage a quixotic fight against them is to get the idea of crimes against women utterly wrong. Garments will certainly be sold even without the mannequins showing them off. They will go into hiding now and the corporators may not get many pink garments in protest. But the question will seek an answer: who are the real dummies—those outside the shops or inside in the corporation?

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