The minefield of women's apparel
Deciding what I want to wear for any given occasion can be a tricky affair. Is smart casual the same as eveningwear? And does it include a light blue dress with small flowers - or is that strictly a cocktail dress? And is it the empire waist or the basque waist which is preferred for the fuller figure? Should blue and green never be seen? And what about pink and red? Yep, it’s definitely a minefield out there.
That said, as much as I find deciphering the codes of women’s wear slightly mystifying, there is something quite fun and fanciful about making those choices.
A woman should be able to wear what she wants, when she wants. In whatever country she wants. That’s why the European Court’s ruling upholding France’s ban on the full-face veil is so startling.
I like being able to wear a miniskirt whenever I like. Equally I want to be able to choose to wear trousers instead of a skirt on any given day. In the same way, if I wanted to wear an outward symbol of my faith, I should be able to.
Living in London, I know I can do that. But if I were to hop on a plane across to Kampala, I know I’d have to think twice about travelling in a short skirt. I may risk getting arrested at arrivals because they may be banned under Uganda’s controversial Anti-Pornography Bill. While if I were to go to Sudan, I could be fined for wearing trousers.
Amira Hamed lives in Sudan – and who has been previously fined for wearing trousers – more recently has been charged with ‘indecent dress’. Why? Because she’s refused to wear a headscarf.
For this “crime”, Amira could be flogged with 40 lashes.
So in Sudan, a woman not wearing a headscarf is a crime. Meanwhile, in France, a woman can still be punished for wearing a full-face veil.
A woman’s choice to wear a burqa or not to wear a headscarf is exactly that: her choice. She should be allowed to publicly demonstrate her faith through her clothing or jewellery if she wants to. Just as she should not be forced to publicly demonstrate her faith (or lack thereof) if she doesn’t want to.
Choosing what to wear is a basic right to freedom of expression which should be afforded to all, whether you live in Uganda, Sudan or France, or anywhere for that matter. There shouldn’t be one rule for me – living in London – and another rule for my Ugandan, Sudanese or French sisters.
Amnesty International is calling on Sudan and France alike to quash these laws. Women like Amira shouldn’t be at risk of flogging because she doesn’t want to wear a headscarf, and women in France who want to wear a full-face veil shouldn’t be punished for choosing to do that.
After all, every woman should be free to spend hours working out what (not) to wear.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.