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September 23, 2019

A thing amiss


September 23, 2019

Not unreasonably many parents love to post photographs of their children on Facebook. But what is disconcerting is the growing acceptability of images being posted of very little girls, some dressed in bikini style tops and flowing skirts, pouting as they pose with hand on hip or gyrate to a swinging rhythm from a Bollywood film.

Most comments that follow such images suggest that people find them cute and indeed adorable. But do these images not sexualise these very small girls and indirectly suggest that it is alright to do so?

Last year, a controversy broke out about a morning show hosted on television where little girls were called on to perform numbers to tunes from popular Indian films. There is something distinctly distasteful about minors lying on the floor in a studio and moving their bodies to show it off. The show was issued a show-cause notice by Pemra and the matter also reached the Lahore High Court.

Plenty of other similar images appear on social media. Even school dance performances or ‘cultural’ events sometimes feature somewhat inappropriate gestures and dance moves by little girls. There appear to be few qualms about sexualising our little girls and painting their faces with full make up in many cases for events such as family weddings.

Yes, little girls performing on stage and little boys too do look adorable. But we do need far more awareness about the messages being sent out to the children themselves and those who watch them. It is obvious from the morning show that aired for some time that many of the girls possess considerable dance talent. There should be opportunities to channelize this into forms of dance which do not sexualise but present the art form as one which is inherently beautiful and involves a huge amount of skill.

Kathak is indeed taught in major cities. But classes are few, astonishingly even at schools where they are offered. We need to restore the days when classical dance was presented openly on TV, and lessons for little girls were the norm. In the same way lessons, as they still are, were available for Bharatnatyam, Odissi and at more posh establishments even for ballet.

The important difference between these classical dance forms and the imitations of TV or movie screens is that the former utilise the beauty, ability and skill of the dancer herself to put together something that is aesthetic and technically admirable. It is hard to understand why any parent would not opt for this rather than imitations of more raunchy dance acts seen on video clips over social media.

Sexualising children must be avoided and so should emphasizing the ‘prettiness’ of little girls or their ability to carry off a multi-layered gharara. Children of either gender are to be admired for their curiosity, their intelligence, their delight in exploring the world and their inner beauty. This does not need to be enhanced through artificial means.

An awareness campaign is needed and women organisations should take the lead in this. Schools too can play a part in creating awareness and remembering that girls in particular are not merely figures to be dressed up in and put on stage but real people with minds and thoughts and personalities which should be reflected and unfettered in all they do.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.

Email: [email protected]

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