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Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who has always stood up for girls right to education, has now voiced her opinion against the objectification of women based on their attire. Unfortunately, the world is still debating on who should decide what women should wear, instead of standing up for individual rights, education or violence against women. Malala believes that whether a woman chooses to wear a hijab or burqa or take it off should be her call. The clothing varies according to region and culture, but a woman should always have the right to decide what she wants to wear.

She took to Instagram and posted a picture of herself with a long caption and a link to the article she has written for Podium, titled Please stop telling us how to dress”.



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“When I was 12 years old, a relative complained to my father about my interviews on local news channels. ‘She should be at home, not in front of the cameras,’ he said. ‘And if she’s going to speak, she should at least cover her face!’ Girls should be neither seen nor heard – and especially not both at once.

And the situation has not changed much 13 years later;  the arguments and debates around every societal subject are somehow linked to women’s clothes and how they dress up.

“Years ago I spoke against the Taliban forcing women in my community to wear burqas – and last month I spoke against Indian authorities forcing girls to remove their hijabs at school. These aren’t contradictions – both cases involve objectifying women. If someone forces me to cover my head, I will protest. If someone forces me to remove my scarf, I will protest.

Whether a woman chooses a burqa or a bikini, she has the right to decide for herself. Come and talk to us about individual freedom and autonomy, about preventing harm and violence, about education and emancipation. Do not come with your wardrobe notes.”

She took a stand against this unjust practice of moral policing and objectification that tries to limit a woman’s entire existence to her dress.

“As a Pakistani girl transitions into adolescence, her family, neighbours and even strangers expect her to look a certain way. How a girl chooses to dress determines what people think of her and how they will treat her. If you do not follow your community’s established dress code, you’re a threat to the culture, to religion. You’re an outsider, not to be trusted or befriended,” she wrote, adding, “I was determined to decide for myself. My face meant identity, presence and power for me – and I refused to cover it.”

Malala also highlighted how this objectification has resulted in dire consequences for women belonging to every walk of life.

“Women and girls in every corner of the globe understand that, if they are harassed or assaulted on the street, their clothes are more likely to face trial than their attackers. Women are constantly being told to put on or take off various items of clothing, constantly sexualised or suppressed. We are beaten at home, punished at school and harassed in public for what we wear.”

She went on to share some personal experiences about how people reacted to her change in dressing when she was studying at Oxford.

“A decade after the Taliban forced women in my community to wear burqas, a photo of me at college in Oxford made news around the world. In it, I am wearing a jacket, jeans and a scarf around my head. Some people were shocked to see me out of the traditional shalwar kameez I wore for much of my early life. They criticised me for being too Western and claimed I had abandoned Pakistan and Islam. Some said the jeans were permissible as long as I kept my scarf on. Others said my scarf was a symbol of oppression and I should take it off, as if I could not be fully emancipated until I erased all traces of my ethnicity and faith,” she added.

“I said nothing. I felt no obligation to defend myself or meet anyone’s expectations of me.”

“The truth is, I love my scarves. I feel closer to my culture when I wear them. I hope girls from my village will see that someone who looks like them and dresses like them can complete her education, have a career and choose her own future. Someday I might make changes to my wardrobe. I also might not. But exploring and understanding clothing will remain part of my life, as will defending every woman’s right to determine what she wears,” she emphasized.

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