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October 26th, 2011

Why do women not wear helmets in India ?

How many times have you seen scooters zipping through the streets of Delhi, with the driver (male) wearing a helmet and his wife/girlfriend/sister/mother riding pillion – usually sitting demurely side-saddle – and without a helmet ?

God forbid there were an accident, both passengers would be equally affected, one would think.

Not according to the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, which specifically exempts women from wearing a helmet when riding pillion.

The Delhi Police disagrees with the law, and would like everyone to wear helmets. If now the civic authorities are weighing in, urging the courts to amend the act, then perhaps we will see a change to what would appear to be a pretty nonsensical situation.

When I first visited India, nearly 30 years ago, I asked why women didn’t wear helmets ad was told it was because it would quote unquote mess up their hair-do.  Anyone know what was the rationale behind the exemption ?  Was it seriously hair do’s ?

2 comments to Why do women not wear helmets in India ?

  • Sanjay Hegde

    Dear Christine,
    As is usual, it is misplaced chivalry and religious practise which is used to dispense with needed protection for a vulnerable pillion rider.Men are reluctant to wear a helmet and will be reluctant to carry two when out on a family trip. In the 90’s a similar move had faced opposition from certain Sikh bodies based upon some skewed reading of their scriptures which forbade any headwear other than the turban.

  • christine

    Then, of course, there is the issue of the children, squashed between their parents, and even more vulnerable…

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