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S.G.P.C. to Consider Banning Girls in Jeans


The Telegraph, Chandigarh, Jan. 10, 2005

Women going to gurdwaras may soon have to junk their jeans for more 'traditional' attire.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.) is thinking of enforcing a dress code for women, following in the footsteps of the Central Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee's Singhbhum unit in Jamshedpur.

'Some decorum should be maintained inside gurdwaras. Girls should come properly attired and not think that they are on a ramp,' an S.G.P.C. official said.

'While we do not have any problem with any dress, we believe that a gurdwara is a place where people should come traditionally attired. Girls wearing jeans do not carry a chunni [scarf] to cover their heads, which is the proper way to sit in a gurdwara. They cannot even bend down in front of the holy book properly and also have problems sitting down,' the spokesperson added.

One of the reasons the Singhbhum committee had cited for banning women in jeans from entering gurdwaras in Jamshedpur was to make Sikh girls aware of their heritage and shield them from Western influence.

While many Sikhs here have welcomed the Jamshedpur ban, a visit to Punjab University revealed that the GeNext women would not take such an edict lying down.

'Why is it that only we become the targets of priests every time? Sikhism is the world's most modern religion. But they hang us each time. From being forced to wearing salwar kameez in schools and colleges to banning jeans in gurdwaras. Why don't they just leave us alone to do what we like?' asked Jasbir.

'Many of us are more comfortable in jeans and skirts than sarees and salwars. Moreover, sexual harassment does not end even when we are praying in gurdwaras - in jeans or otherwise. Gurdwara authorities should be on the lookout for boys who hang around gurdwaras only to harass girls, not lay new codes for us,' she added.

Her university mate Ratan feels it is unfair that Sikhs with shorn hair are not only accepted in society but are even running gurdwaras. 'What about them? Instead of banning girls wearing jeans, it is they who should be the first to be turned away from gurdwaras. Moreover, many boys are more fashionable than women. Why don't our religious leaders teach them a lesson or two on our culture? By doing that, they would be serving humanity very well,' she fumed.

While the S.G.P.C. is studying the Jamshedpur ban to implement it across the nation, the panel could make some changes like allowing girls to wear jeans with long kurtas.

S.G.P.C. president Jagir Kaur, who has chosen to remain silent so far on the Jamshedpur edict, is believed to have given her consent to a dress code for girls. But she has made it clear it should 'not read like an order.'

'We are looking at different angles as we have received numerous complaints. But one thing is certain. Tucked-in t-shirts and mini tops are likely to face the axe. We are not against girls wearing jeans while visiting gurdwaras. We are against the way they are being worn. If (the jeans are) discarded, they will be welcome. Otherwise we know the steps that should be taken,' an S.G.P.C. member said on anonymity.

An edict issued by a Calcutta gurdwara prabandhak committee banning priests from conducting marriage ceremonies in hotels and halls had created a stir in the late eighties.

Many had been forced to postpone their weddings and queue up outside gurdwaras for fresh dates.

The ban was later adopted by all gurdwara committees in the country.