India’s tourism minister Mahesh Sharma has made an alarming suggestion.

He thinks female tourists shouldn’t wear skirts in India, for their own safety!

However, this is not just an Indian problem. Shockingly, it happens in Europe too…read on to find out more.

To summarize, the minister said that tourists would be given a kit upon arrival in India, which would include suggestions about how they should behave. He said, “In that kit they are given dos and don’ts. These are very small things like, they should not venture out alone at night in small places, or wear skirts, and they should click the photo of the vehicle number plate whenever they travel and send it to friends. For their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts … Indian culture is different from the western.”

To say people were shocked at this suggestion is an understatement.

Mahesh Sharma later backtracked. He claimed his statement about not wearing skirts, was only in the context of visiting religious places.

This is quite ironic, since temples ancient Indian architecture includes sculptures of men and women with minimal clothing. In fact, here’s what beautiful temples in India look like:

Brihadeshwara Temple, Tamil Nadu. Credit: Ramkumar Radhakrishnan/flickr

Laxman temple in Khajuraho. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/flickr

Laxman temple in Khajuraho. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/flickr

Kandariya Mahadeva temple in Khajuraho. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/flickr

Kandariya Mahadeva temple in Khajuraho. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/flickr

However, what Sharma said isn’t really new. Several religious sites in India forbid women from wearing “revealing” clothes, which include sleeveless shirts or short skirts. It’s interesting that these rules exist in a culture from which the Kamasutra originated.

However, is this claim being exaggerated because it’s India?

Let’s face it. India’s tourism minister suggesting that women should not wear certain things at “religious” places is definitely patriarchal…but it’s not just India. Even Vatican City has instructions printed on a board, displayed at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. It restricts women from wearing clothes that don’t cover their knees or shoulders. Interestingly, in the Sistine Chapel which is right next to it, Michelangelo has painted the ceiling with his masterpiece: The Creation of Adam. This world renowned painting, spread all across the chapel walls, includes celestial beings with no clothes on.

While international media touts India as backward for women, French police force women to strip out of a burkini, and religious sites across the world tell women what to wear. The problem is not about a particular country, it’s about women’s identities being controlled and suppressed across the globe.

It’s time for leaders around the world to stop telling women how to dress.