Canadian Street Preacher Proposes Law To Regulate Women’s “Provocative” Dress Code
A while ago I wrote a blog about women in Shanghai stood up against official who stated that women should be responsible for groping and how social media generates online feminist movement. The cause, if you still remember, was that the official Weibo (Chinese Twitter) of Shanghai No.2 Subway Line wrote that, "If you wear clothes like this, no wonder you will be sexually harassed. Girls, respect yourself" plus a featuring photo of a girl dressing in a revealing dress.
Women asking for equal rights maybe a young concept in China, but even in places where democracy is more mature, it is still a constant battle. Just a few days ago, a preacher in Toronto expressed identical statement as the Chinese subway official. The preacher Al-Haashim Jamena Atangana, in response to a news that five women encountered sexual assault in University of York, wrote to Toronto Sun that:
Women in North America are falling victims of the Democratic Freedom that you they passionly believe in. The reason why a woman gets raped is because of the way she dress. Women dress so provocatively so much that they receive too much attention for themselves and that attention at times leads to death.
The preacher is also proposing a law to make it illegal for women to dress provocatively.
Toronto Sun made this incident the front-page feature on its July 16 issue with the title "DRESS CODE: Muslim street cleric wants law making it illegal for women to dress provocatively."
Atangana told the Sun News reporter in an interview that, "I've never seen or heard of a Muslim women being raped or being sexually assaulted anywhere in Toronto, particularly in the university where there is a lot of Muslim women attending there. Every time you hear a women being assaulted, it is always a woman who dressed provocatively."
This incident undoubtedly generated backlashes from the rest of the society. In fact, Toronto has been a very active city in fighting women's rights as it is the first city to initiate the "SlutWalk." According to Guardian, back in 2011, Michael Sanguinetti, a police officer from York said in a pep talk that, "I've been told I"m not supposed to say this--however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." This statement directly caused the SlutWalk movement to happen in Toronto and it is now spreading around the world. The Slutwalk movement calls people to join the protest against excusing sexual assault by referring to women's gender, appearance and dress.
On the other hand, this controversy has also drawn argument from a different direction. For example, Matt Gurney from the National Post points out that: "If a Christian — say, for example, the one who randomly (if accurately) called me out for my sinful ways in public — were to be urging the same thing as Atangana, it’s hard to imagine the Sun or any other news organization taking it seriously."
Sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion... these words are always in the center of social controversies. However, in this particular case, I feel the gender inequality clearly outweighs other focuses. While one should certainly respect different groups' traditions and ways of dressing, imposing it on others and blaming women for their sexual victimization is not acceptable. Women around the world have been fighting for this a long time yet still hear similar statements every now and then if not everyday. It is pleasant to see that the civil society and civic journalism have been utilizing the cyberspace effectively to exert their advocacy. But one has to realize that there is still a long way to go as such news appears constantly, indicating that achieving gender equality is a long-term and ever-evolving battle.