A rare fashion trend has emerged in Pune, a city in Western India. When coming here one might think that the majority of the population are Muslims: wherever you look, you see women wearing colorful headscarves, covering their faces and their identities. After looking a bit closer one will however realize that while covering their faces many of these women wear tight jeans and leave their arms bare.
What started as a means of protection against pollution and smog when riding a bike through the more crowded parts of the city, has now become a powerful accessory for women in public. Women in India still struggle with male harassment on an everyday basis. The headscarves provide them with anonymity and serve as a sort of armor against the intrusion of their privacy.
What might be misperceived as a religious symbol, in Pune serves as a fashionable means for female empowerment but also as a reminder that women in India have to hide their faces in order to live out their personal freedom.