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The woman behind the stupid mannequin ban

If those lifeless mannequins outside lingerie shops ever dared to excite you with their stiff plastic legs, unnatural proportions and bristly wigs, you can rest assured that you will no more be subject to such “stimulation”. The BMC has taken care to eradicate the “corruption” that these dummies are spreading in the minds of men. All thanks to the highbrow sensibilities and cultural fervour of one woman.

Ritu Tawde

Ritu Tawde (39) is a BJP corporator representing ward number 121 in Ghatkopar. When this first-time representative of the people saw lingerie-clad mannequins outside shops on MG Road in her ward, they struck her as offensive. “It’s against India’s rich and varied sanskriti,” she demurred. Her objection resounded loud in the BMC house, where 227 corporators promptly passed a resolution against mannequins sporting lingerie, a couple of months ago. Now the BMC chief has the final say on it.

Ritu Tawde
BJP corporator Ritu Tawde outside a lingerie stall at Ghatkopar. Pic/Sameer Markande

Tawde’s proposal and its approval from corporators led to sparks flying among the more liberal-minded. In an age of slutwalks, pink underwear campaigns and, well, the internet, this politician can reduce the performance of an entire generation of bra-burning women’s lib activists to a dummy run.

But she duly acknowledges this, and says this is a fight to save women’s integrity. The intricacy of her compassion for the female dignity, though, doesn’t stop here. It leads all the way to the Middle East, a region she believes knows how to punish justly. She says India should have a punitive system like theirs, that is, instant. MiD DAY decided to prod the firebrand “feminist” with questions about the goings-on in her mind with respect to the proposal.

When did you get the idea of banning the mannequins?
In Ghatkopar’s MG Road, the area that I represent, I have noticed that, in the last few years, shopkeepers selling lingerie are making their mannequins wear two-piece and then displaying them on the footpath. This is corrupting the minds of people, especially when we see that crimes against woman are on a rise. The mannequins corrupt men. I also think we should have a punishment system like in the Middle East, where people are instantly penalised, unlike ours where criminals who rape two-year-olds stay behind bars for a long time, but don’t face immediate punishment.

Isn’t it far-fetched to blame mannequins for corrupting the minds of men, when explicit content is easily available on Internet, even TV?
Already people have the option of TV and Internet where such things are rampant. But now even footpaths have not been spared by these shopkeepers, who keep scantily-clad mannequins for the consumption of the lusty eyes of men. Women feel embarrassed just walking on this road.

Has any woman personally complained to you?
Yes, some teenagers from a college came to me. The girls told me that while they were walking (on the road), some men whistled at them. These mannequins are encouraging men to do that, women aren’t safe. Not one day goes when I don’t read about a rape case in the newspaper. Our culture doesn’t permit us such a show of indecency in public.

A mannequin used to sell lingerie is indecency?
Yes, if you ask a woman, not a man. A woman will tell you this is indecent. Someone asked me that don’t women put their lingerie out to dry, and I told him that we hang the lingerie to dry not out in the public view but inside our homes. This is not Indian culture, our women don’t roam on the streets wearing a two-piece. We need to get rid of this culture, it’s corrupting minds.

It’s a business tactic to attract buyers.
No one should harm the integrity of women to do business. These mannequins are that of women and they are presented almost nude.

You wanted to rid the MG Road market of the mannequins. How did the idea engulf the whole of Mumbai?
When I raised this issue in the house, our mayor was the first to accept it and soon all the corporators from all political parties supported it and it got passed. I fully support the idea that this should be implemented across the city.

You limit your plans to Mumbai?
I wish that the lingerie ban on mannequins could reach the entire country. It’s against our culture and our culture is rich and we need to protect it. Everyone in my family is supporting me. Not only common people are congratulating me on my movement but even actresses have called me to say that I have raised a good issue.

Tweet talk
@PritishNandy I have never been aroused by a mannequin. Maybe our BMC corporators are.
@mojorojo If you really want to ban mannequins, ban the half-mannequins? The ones that are just legs without torsos. Because they’re creepy.
@rameshsrivats How about banning women to prevent sexual crimes against mannequins. Makes no sense? Okay. But BMC started it.
@ShirishKunder Whoever found the bikini-clad mannequins sexually provocative, must definitely find the naked dogs even more provocative.
@RanvirShorey First the bar dancers, now the bikini mannequins. When it should be traffic jams and water shortages.
@kalkikanmani Maybe they can just ban women...
@GulPanag How about they ban men from working in shops selling #lingerie?
@mockingnow Jairam Ramesh says don’t romanticise Maoists. BMC says don’t fantasise looking at mannequins wearing lingerie.
@AbhiHaanAbhiNaa If you are banning #Mannequins then visiting #Khajuraho would soon be a non-bailable offence.

Citizens react
Come on, really? is how most Mumbaikars greeted the news of the proposed ban on mannequins sporting lingerie. They all seemed to concur that given the times that we live in, politicians needn’t be so mindful of the negligee.

Rather than concentrating
on important problems in this pre-monsoon period, the politicians are concentrating on such senseless things. It’s high time they realise that we are living in the 21st century. - Farah Jafri, research analyst

First, ban the models who are shown freely on the television. I fail to understand what is the connection between sex crimes and mannequins? By that logic, you will have to censor actresses in the movies. - Harsha Chopda, student, Jai Hind College

Banning mannequins won’t make any difference. We should be civilised enough to understand what’s right and what’s wrong. - Insha Padania, student from Thane

Merchants speak
Owners of lingerie stores are surprised that an old trick of the trade has come under such harsh scrutiny of the politicians, who are railing against exhibiting intimate apparel. Traders find the ban irrational, impractical, and just a plain bad idea.

Mannequins are to attract buyers. People make purchases according to what we display. The ban will definitely prove to be a loss. I am against it. But if it is forced on us, I will have no option
- Aakarshan Tiwari

It makes no sense banning mannequins at lingerie shops. If people want to ogle, there are similar (if not more explicit) displays on internet sites, lingerie ads on the front pages of newspapers and magazines and so on.
- Asha Salian, Ghatkopar

I have written a letter to the BMC. We are entering the 21st century and opening doors to foreign investors but our elected representatives are restricting shops from displaying these products, which is unacceptable. We will protest this move.
- Viren Shah, president of Federation Of Retail Traders Welfare Association.

By Neha Tripathi and Tanvi Shinde  

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