Indian singer slammed for saying women in jeans cause trouble

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A well-known Indian playback singer has drawn widespread criticism for saying women who wear jeans were creating "trouble" for men, while the attire itself was against Indian culture.

KJ Yesudas became the latest public figure in India accused of sexism, following comments in recent months by a string of politicians who have tried to justify the country's high levels of rape.

Yesudas, winner of numerous national awards for Indian classical and devotional songs, told a gathering on Thursday in his southern home state of Kerala that "women should not trouble others by wearing jeans".

"When they put on jeans, men are tempted to look beyond that," the veteran singer was quoted by national media as saying.

"Women's beauty lies in their modesty. They should not try to become like men. They should not force others to do unnecessary things by wearing jeans, which would give them magnetism," the Indian Express daily quoted the 74-year-old saying.

Women's groups slammed the comments, while members of the music industry condemned them as insensitive and regressive.

"Archaic statements like this from celebrities and well-known people in society damages all our efforts of empowering women," Ranjana Kumari, head of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, said.

"He should know better, coming from the entertainment industry, that you can't dictate who should wear what. Rather he should appeal to men to change their mindset," she added.

Yesudas' remarks sparked a backlash on social media with #Yesudas trending on Twitter.

Popular Bollywood music composer and singer Vishal Dadlani wrote he was "deeply disappointed that Yesudas-ji, someone I've always admired as an evolved singer, has such a petty, small-minded and sexist world-view".

The uproar comes at a time when India has become increasingly sensitised to sexual violence after the 2012 fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi, which led to a public outcry and tougher laws for rapists.

A senior politician from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh caused outrage during the recent election campaign by saying "boys will be boys" as he discussed sentences for rape.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley also came under fire for referring to the 2012 attack on the student as a "small incident".

Several politicians have, meanwhile, sought to blame tight jeans, short skirts and other Western influences for the incidents of rape, while the head of a village council pointed to chowmein which he claimed led to hormone imbalances among men.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech in August that levels of rape had shamed India.

A rape is commited every 22 minutes in India, according to government figures.

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