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Mahesh Sharma's skirt comment forced him to issue a clarification

Sharma's comments, when he was responding to questions on the government's steps for tourist safety in popular destinations

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

We are looking at partial abolition of 5/20 rule: Mahesh Sharma

Union Culture Minister on Monday, found himself in the middle of yet another controversy for his remarks that foreigners travelling to India should avoid wearing skirts, forcing him to issue a clarification.

Sharma said his comments were "advisory in nature" and were meant for those tourists who were visiting religious places.

Talking to reporters on Saturday in Agra, he had said, "For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts... Indian culture is different from the western (culture)."

The remarks evoked a sharp reactions with Congress leader Manish Tiwari terming them as "most uncultured remarks" and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal saying that the comments reveal a very "horrible and pathetic mindset".

Clarifying his remarks, Sharma said, "It is country with different cultures, different eating habits and different dressing senses which change on every 100 km. We have a tradition (of saying) Atithi Devobhava (the guest is almost like God). Such a ban is unimaginable. I said this as an advisory when going to religious places. Like when we go to gurudwara, we cover our heads, when we go to temple, we remove our shoes," Sharma said.

"I am a father of (two) daughters. I have not said what one person should wear or not wear, neither it is desired nor I am authorised to say so. I have only said this as an advice when they visit to religious place," he added.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also took a dig at Sharma, saying "Women had greater freedom to wear clothes of their choice in Vedic times than they have in Modi times.

Criticising Sharma, Tiwari said, "If has his way, he will put every women in burqa. The Culture Minister of India at times comes out with most uncultured remarks. Diversity of culture is something the culture ministry should recognise."

Sharma also faced the ire of Maliwal, who said such remarks reveal "horrible and pathetic" mindset and "not expected" from a central minister.

"It (the remark) reveals a very horrible and pathetic mindset. Mindset that completely runs in our society. Fact is that two year olds are getting raped... They are also wearing shorts, so because of that they are getting raped. It's a completely sad and medieval kind of thought process. At least it is not expected from a central minister. How could he speak like that? It is completely bizarre," she said.

Maliwal was of the opinion that onus is on girls for whatever unfortunate happens to them and questioned the administration about the security and conviction.

"A two year-old is getting raped... Even she has enticed the boys? Actually they end up putting the onus on the girls. Where is the law and order? What about ensuring proper policing and ensuring conviction?" she asked.

Sharma's comments came on Saturday, when he was responding to questions on the government's steps for tourist safety in popular destinations like Agra as he was speaking about the list of dos and don't for visitors to India.

He said when tourists arrive at the airport, they will be given a welcome kit which has a card with dos and don't and instructions like if they are in small areas, they should not roam around alone at night or wear skirts.

The welcome kit mentions about clothing but does not specifically says anything about avoiding wearing of skirts.

"Some parts of India, particularly the smaller towns and villages, still have traditional styles of dressing.

"Dress codes for some religious places can include covering your head, being barefoot, etc.

"Do find out about local customs and traditions from the tourism office or concerned authorities while visiting such places," according to the "Tips for Travelling in India" on "clothing" that is provided with the welcome kit to foreigners at the airports.

Last year also, Sharma found himself in the middle of controversy when he had said that girls wanting a night out was "not acceptable in India".

First Published: Mon, August 29 2016. 17:07 IST