Why do we always target women in the name of dress code?

December 18, 2017

By Minerwa Tahir

KARACHI: A student goes to school and is told she can’t wear the hijab as it ‘violates’ the dress code.

Some thousand miles away, another student is told that she is violating the dress code as her shirt’s length ends above the knee.

While hatred for a particular religion is one of the drivers in scenario I, a similar pattern prevails in both the cases: a disregard for women’s right to choose.

We hear of cases about women who are forced to take off the hijab in the name of dress code in seemingly liberal countries. Amasa Firdaus, a Nigerian law graduate, is the most recent case. According to BBC, she has been denied her call to the bar after insisting on wearing her hijab during the ceremony. Similarly, school inspectors in England were told by a government department to question Muslim primary school girls if they are wearing a hijab or similar headscarf and why. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, women in the US have been prohibited from wearing their hijab in a number of contexts. “They have been harassed, fired from jobs, denied access to public places, and otherwise discriminated against because they wear hijab,” read an article on the union’s website. “Because of their visibility, Muslim women who wear hijab face particular exposure to discrimination and have increasingly been targets for harassment in the aftermath of September 11.”

I, a Pakistani Muslim woman, do not wear the hijab. And I may not condone the idea of wearing a hijab but that, in no way, gives me the right to impose my liking on another woman. If I tell a woman to take off her hijab, I am simply taking away her agency.

Similarly, I may not the like the idea of women wearing shirts that end above their knees. I may even feel “uncomfortable” in the presence of such women, as one Pakistani assistant professor working at a private university has suggested. Nevertheless, what right do I have to impose my liking on other women?

It’s a question of choice and discrimination. Let’s not pretend that we are actually so intellectually challenged that we are unable to comprehend a simple concept as that.

This country houses the people of various cultures and religions and none is superior or inferior to the other. We need to respect the diversity of our people and let everyone be.

To the professor who suggested that women violating the dress code make others “uncomfortable”, how about you avoid the outdoors, sir?