Dress appropriately, don't make eye contact with strangers (especially men) and be at home before sunset. These are a few basic rules that Indian daughters absorb from their parents, even in a new India where years of economic boom have thrown up a trendy, affluent youth with a kind of freedom unknown to many of their parents. Last month, India had its first
SlutWalk in Bhopal City in Madhya Pradesh to denounce the idea that women entice men and invite trouble with their attire, a belief seemingly held by many Indian judges as well.
Canadians initiated the first SlutWalk in April, in response to a comment made by a Toronto police official.
"I've been told I'm not supposed to say this -- however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," said Michael Sanguinetti to a personal safety class at York University.
As a result, feminists the world over took to the streets to tell men that a woman's racy attire cannot be an excuse to sexually harass her.
In the conservative country of India, such a demonstration was particularly bold. Not more than 50 men and women came to show their support at the SlutWalk in Madhya Pradesh, despite nearly 5,000 registrations on its Facebook page.
Wary of the event's title, which was locally renamed Besharmi Morcha, or Shameless March, many parents forbade their daughters to participate, though Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of rapes in the country. A far cry from the belt-like skirts and thigh-high boots found on other marches, the women taking to the streets of Bhopal were also asked to tone everything down.
"Unlike Toronto, we advised women participants not to dress provocatively, as it was against our culture," said Radhika Shingweker, a law student who organized Bhopal's SlutWalk.
Many activists fear that the irony of using the word "slut" will be lost on the majority of India's 1.2 billion people. The word has entered the lexicon of the upper crust, English-speaking urban youth through international cinema and TV serials, but scarcely travels to vast swathes of poor and often illiterate rural hinterlands.
In a country like India, the irony of the protest may take time to filter through.
"I hope to God I am wrong, but I have visions of men taking photographs of these girls, ogling them, trying to touch them -- and not getting the point at all. To be blunt, I don't think Delhi is ready for this kind of in-your-face protest. Sad, but true," said Christine Pemberton, a feminist living in New Delhi.