Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen has waded into the hijab controversy, likening it to a “chastity belt of the dark ages”.
In an opinion piece for a news website on Saturday, the atheist and humanist said there is “practically no difference between a Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu fundamentalist”.
“It is perfectly all right for an educational institution in a secular country [like India] to mandate secular dress codes for its students,” she said.
“These pieces of clothing [hijabs] are symbols of oppression and insult to women. I hope women soon realise that burqa is not different from the chastity belt of the dark ages that was used to lock in women’s sexual organs. If chastity belts are humiliating, why not burqa?” the author wrote.
Nasreen called for a uniform civil code and said a uniform dress code was “necessary to stop conflicts. Right to religion is not above the right to education”.
The author’s comments come amid a row over Muslim girls’ right to wear the hijab to higher educational institutes in Karnataka. A few weeks ago, girl students in hijabs were denied entry into a government pre-university college in Udupi. Following the incident, protests erupted against the hijab ban in various parts of the state.
Meanwhile, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court earlier on Saturday seeking its direction to the Centre, states and Union territories to implement a common dress code for staff members and students in registered educational institutions for securing equality and promoting fraternity and national integration.
On Friday, the court said it would protect the constitutional rights of every citizen and take up cases at an appropriate time. It noted that the Karnataka High Court was already seized of the matter.
In its interim order, the HC has asked the state government to reopen educational institutions and restrained students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab and any religious flag within the classroom in institutions that have prescribed a student dress code or uniform. It is scheduled to resume hearing on February 14.