Hijab must in Iran, burqa banned in France: Countries that dictate what women should wear
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police for not wearing her headscarf properly, has spurred anti-hijab protests in Iran. Her death has brought to focus how states regulate women’s clothing. And it is not just the Islamic nations
‘Do not touch my clothes’ was the hashtag of resistance adopted by Afghan women after the Taliban had made the hijab mandatory for female students in 2021.
The women shared their pictures on social media dressed in colourful and vibrant traditional Afghan attires to protest against the Taliban’s decree.
In a similar act of defiance, the female protestors are opposing the compulsory hijab law in Iran by removing their headscarves in public and chopping off their hair.
The protests come in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for wearing tight trousers and a loose headscarf (hijab) by Iran’s morality police in Tehran. Later, she fell into a coma and died last week in police custody.
Her death has sparked global protests and worldwide condemnation. It has also highlighted the ways in which many states control what their citizens, especially women can or cannot wear.
Besides Iran, here are other countries that restrict women and dictate their clothing choices.
The restriction on women’s freedom was the most visible change in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021.
In May this year, the Taliban mandated women wear the burqa (loose clothing that covers the whole body and only reveals eyes) when they venture out of the house. Women were also directed to leave their homes only if necessary.
The Taliban government has also banned women from travelling long distances without a male chaperone.
Saudi Arabia requires women to dress ‘modestly’, and hence, tight-fitting clothes, sleeveless shirts, short dresses and see-through materials are not allowed.
Wearing heavy make-up is also frowned upon, notes The Week.
The traditional abaya (a long, loose garment that has a black headscarf or niqab) is worn by women in public.
However, this law was relaxed in 2018 and women could opt not to wear abaya.
There is no such diktat for clothing for Saudi men, who usually wear a thobe (an ankle-length tunic that covers their arms). Men can choose their clothes as long as it hides their torsos and knees.
The enforcement of the dress code in Saudi Arabia was eased up in 2016 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “stripped the religious police of arrest powers, removing the enforcers of the Saudi dress code”, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Among North Korea’s many bizarre rules such as a ban on watching foreign films, its citizens’ clothing choices are also regulated.
To curb any kind of Western influence, North Korea prohibits piercings, skinny jeans, and several hairstyles.
Women wearing skirts have to ensure their knees are covered. As per Insider, the nation augmented its crackdown on tight jeans, dyed hair and other styles, which mostly target women.
The country’s Socialist Patriotic Youth League stops people on roads, take them to their office and releases them only after someone brings “acceptable” clothes, a source told Radio Free Asia.
“The youth league’s patrols are cracking down on young people who wear long hair down to their waists, and those who dye their hair brown, as well as people who wear clothes with large foreign letters and women who wear tight pants,” the source was quoted as saying by the US non-profit news outlet.
North Korea authorises a list of hairstyles for its citizens– 18 for women and 10 for men, reports Times Now.
France bans Muslim women from wearing full Islamic veil (burqa and niqab) in several public places including streets, shops, and hospitals among others.
Hijab is not allowed in public schools, middle schools and high schools. A law was passed in 2004 in France that prohibited donning religious symbols considered “conspicuous” in schools, reports CNN.
France’s football federation does not allow hijab-wearing women to compete in the sport. The ban has sparked a backlash from many Muslim players.
“What we want is to be accepted as we are, to implement these grand slogans of diversity, inclusiveness,” Founé Diawara, the president of Les Hijabeuses, a group of young hijab-wearing soccer players, said.
“Our only desire is to play soccer,” Diawara was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
Other European nations
Other European nations including the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Belgium have banned full-face veils worn by Muslim women.
In the Netherlands, the ban also applies to full-face helmets and balaclavas, besides burqas, Deutsche Welle reports.
Bulgaria enforced a burqa ban in 2016.
In July this year, Italy’s famous tourist destination Sorrento banned bikinis citing locals feeling ‘discomfort and unease’.
Although, bikinis are allowed at poolside or beach clubs, people are fined if they are seen walking around in swimsuits in other places like shops or restaurants, reports Mirror.
Some countries that struck rigid dress codes
Uganda had scrapped its controversial anti-pornography law in 2021 under which mini-skirts were banned.
In 2019, Sudan had repealed its ‘Public Order’ law- which dictated how women dress and act in public.
The law allowed security forces to arrest women for “the most insignificant reasons”, such as wearing trousers, not donning hijab in public, or mingling with men, reports Egyptian Streets.
With inputs from agencies
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