Close on the heels of the recent arrest and flogging of 10 Sudanese women for violating the Sharia law by wearing trousers and blouses in a Khartoum restaurant, Dutch media outlets quoted unconfirmed sources yesterday to confirm the arrest of several women in Amsterdam restaurants for not wearing the Klederdracht [traditional Dutch dress]:1
In an early morning swoop, the Dutch police raided multiple restaurants in Dam Square and arrested more than a dozen women for wearing trousers. The raid follows the passage of a controversial legislation last week in the Staten-Generaal [parliament] that banned Dutch women from wearing in public anything but Klederdracht. All other wear — trousers, mini-skirts, halters, etc. — were declared as unbecoming and indecent. The punishment for non-compliance will be public flogging with up to 40 lashes for first time offenders and 100 lashes for repeat offenders. The new law, as previously expected, has no provision for any dress code for men.
Lubina Pauline Dressusbuoys, a renowned Dutch feminist, was arrested along with five other girls in Cafe Hollander. "I was wearing slacks and a tee-shirt and the 5 girls arrested with me were wearing pants and shirts just like me; the only difference was that they confessed to their 'crime' and were lashed on the spot. I decided not to confess but take up the issue through my lawyer. I am ashamed to be a citizen of of Netherlands", she reacted angrily to the arrest.
I happened to be in Amsterdam on that fateful day and was able to talk to a few women about the new law. Not all were as unhappy with the law as Ms. Dressusbuoys was. Elisabeth van der Veils, who identified herself as a staunch feminist, dismissed the new law with a wave of her hands:
Remember what Jill Nelson wrote in her MSNBC column, Ugliness of a Beauty Contest? "As far as I'm concerned it's equally disrespectful and abusive to have women prancing around a stage in bathing suits for cash or walking the streets shrouded in burkas in order to survive", she had written, mincing no bones when comparing a beauty pageant in Nigeria to the burka.
I completely agree with Ms. Nelson here. The law is not draconian or anti-women. How can you say there is compulsion in dress code when I have chosen to voluntarily comply with this new law? It's like there is no compulsion in a religion, as long as you follow that religion.
Flouerana Van Clog was equally vehement, denying that the law singled out women:
So what if the law curtailed our right to choose our dress, but not that of men? Really, what's the harm in taking us back a few centuries, eh? Most women perceive the Klederdracht as liberating. It frees us from those ogling men who could no longer look upon us as an hourglass shaped piece of meat. Granting the men the right to wear what they please is a small price to pay for this.
Besides, boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. It's how God intended us to be.
A wide eyed student, who had just returned from Italy after protesting at the G8+G5 meeting and wished to remain anonymous, exclaimed excitedly,
As Piet Hein Donner had said, "The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy." We have this Klederdracht law, obviously because a majority of our people want it. I can see that you are worried because it hurts the capitalist pigs and their American empire who are profiteering from the oppressive globalization.
Who needs variety in dress? Millions of poor women in Indonesia go through their entire life with just one half of a sarong, I hear. I am perfectly happy with a couple of Klederdracht that I could wear through the year. Besides, it will solve the world hunger problem and help us forestall climate change.
Ah, a Gandhi and Gore in the making!
Shaking my head in bewilderment, I walked slowly towards Bijenkorf. I was going to purchase for my wife an evening gown, designed by my friend from the Copenhagen Academy of Fashion Design, inspired by the frescoes of Ajanta, show-cased in Paris, crafted in Beijing in Egyptian cotton, and sold in Amsterdam an obscene symbol of globalization and Western imperialism, of course! Perhaps, I should purchase a traditional Indian sari instead, I thought. It might help alleviate world hunger and liberate Indian women.
1Fiction, not fact.