A minister in the Indian state of Goa has warned women against wearing bikinis on beaches or visiting bars wearing short skirts, saying it is against Indian culture.
Sudin Dhavalikar, Goa’s public works department minister, linked bikinis to sexual crimes and called for a ban.
“We should not allow girls with bikinis to enter public places because it is very difficult to control people who arrive in Goa from different states. By the time the victim reaches the police it is too late. It is better to control such type of activities on the beaches,” he said.
Dhavalikar also said women should not visit bars in short skirts.
Dhavalikar is a member of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak party, an ally of India‘s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).
While the BJP distanced itself from the minister’s comments, members of the opposition Congress party sent Dhavalikar a short skirt in protest.
Influenced by centuries of Portuguese rule, Goa is known as a cheap beach destination for backpackers. But after a series of high-profile crimes – including the 2008 rape and murder of British teenager Scarlett Keeling – the state has cracked down on its nightlife.
The minister’s comments come after similar statements made by Pramod Muthalik, of the Sri Rama Sene (Lord Ram’s Army), a radical Hindu group whose members were involved in a 2009 attack on pub customers in the southern city of Mangalore. Two women were taken to hospital after the incident.
The Goan minister’s comments have caused controversy in a country where a series of brutal gang rapes and high-profile harassment cases have underscored India’s patriarchal attitude towards women.
For many conservative Indians, however, the fault lies not with tradition, but with what they see as the loose morals of western culture invading the country following the start of economic liberalisation in 1991.