Women protest order which says wearing T-shirts and jeans to work is indecent

An April 18 order issued by the Haryana Women and Child Development Department specifying a particular ‘traditional' dress code for its employees, both men and women, has been shrouded in controversy.

Particularly, women activists are demanding withdrawal of the order, which prohibits the wearing of “jeans and T-shirts” as they are virtually considered “indecent.”

While women employees are generally “silent” on the “dress code” which specifies saree or salwar kameez with dupatta for women and trousers/shirt for men, Karishma, a student of Panjab University, says there should be a debate over what is “decent and indecent.”

“What is wrong or indecent in wearing jeans or T-shirt to work whether in the government or private sector?” asked other students.

Japjeet Duggal, journalism student at the School of Communication Studies, Panjab University, told The Hindu: “Dubbing jeans indecent is funny as even a kameez can be worn in an indecent manner. The dress code should specify the length of the kameez because the decency or indecency of the suit depends on it.”

However, the Haryana government has defended the order, which was issued on behalf of the former Director, Women and Child Development, Renu Phulia, especially in the context of the ground reality that officials, including men and women, were coming to work dressed “casually” in jeans/T-shirts/western dresses, “which sometimes not only look awkward but are also in contravention of the government rules.”

Ms. Phulia, who has recently been posted as Deputy Commissioner, Karnal, was not available for comments.

Geeta Bhukkal, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Women and Child Development, said if the employees were objecting to the word “decent,” the order could be rephrased and reviewed, but ruled out its withdrawal.

A male employee said, on condition of anonymity, senior bureaucrats in the department had not applied their mind while issuing the order. He said wearing a bush-shirt or T-shirt in summer with trousers was a very formal office dress, but as per the impugned order, wearing of any other dress was prohibited. This was “unjust.”

Meanwhile, enquiries by The Hindu reveal that several departments do not have a dress code. “Nobody has ever objected to the clothes we wear to office,” said a woman. “Obviously, we are not going to wear indecent clothes to work,” she wryly added.

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