Dress codes are only guidelines and cannot be enforced as law, says Awam


PETALING JAYA: The repeated cases of moral law enforcement frustratingly reflect a long-standing obsession in society as a whole with what women wear, All Women’s Action Society (Awam) said.

Its chief information and communications officer, Jernell Tan Chia Ee, said this showed through the attitudes of a host of authorities, from security guards to management bodies and government and military officials. of the order.

“The same unnecessary preoccupation with clothing above the knees, off-the-shoulder tops and tight-fitting or sleeveless clothing is also pervasive among internet users, politicians and, in most cases, the media. This obsession is both discriminatory and dehumanizing,” she said. the sun.

Tan noted that in 2015, then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s department minister clarified in parliament that there is no enforceable or statutory dress code for the public with respect to government departments and agencies. .

“In short, the dress code is only a guideline and cannot be enforced as law. This should be clear to all civilian sector personnel, regardless of rank – preferably in practice sessions. information or in the form of a policy accessible to all public servants,” Tan said.

“Government departments and agencies are expected to provide quality services to the public, which we are entitled to, and not to preach or berate people on their choice of dress.

“These policies or briefings should also be accompanied by effective and easily accessible reporting mechanisms, with prompt and responsible action or repercussions against officials who continue the practice of unnecessary dress policing,” she said.

Tan said that if faced with the moral police, women should know their rights first, including their freedom of expression.

“This right is enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Clothing constitutes a symbolic form of speech or expression, which is also covered by the legal provision. Also, keep in mind that dress codes are just guidelines, not laws.

“Thus, services cannot be denied to you solely because of your attire.

“Second, if you are denied services or receive discriminatory remarks because of your dress, you can complain to the relevant government agency or reporting department.

“Always remember that we are a proud country of diverse ethnicities and cultures. Self-respect and respect for other cultures should be given due consideration,” she said.

She also pointed out that dress policing places a significant responsibility and burden on women to cover up and shames or punishes them for not doing so.

“All of these factors interact to normalize gender-based violence and entrench a culture of rape that fails to hold perpetrators fully accountable for their violations while subjecting victims (mostly women) to a vicious circle of self-blame and trauma” .

The Women’s Aid Organization deputy executive director, Yu Ren Chung, said it appears women in Malaysia face endless police surveillance by the government and overzealous officers.

“Will this ever end? Government facilities should focus on delivering quality services, not how women dress,” he said.

Yu also asked if any head of government would step in to speak out on this issue and take steps to resolve the issue.

Tan and Yu were commenting on the latest of many incidents where a woman was refused entry to the Wisma Persekutuan government compound in Johor Baru by security guards who deemed her attire ‘inappropriate’ despite being modestly dressed.

Administrative worker Leni Fernandez was dressed in a long-sleeved dress that ended 7cm below her knees and closed-toe shoes when a security guard said her outfit was ‘provocative and indecent’.


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