UAE: Dress Code Campaign Urges Extra Inches of Clothing

Two female Emirati nationals have launched a Twitter campaign to urge expatriates and tourists to respect the cultural sensibilities of the United Arab Emirates regarding dress. Their campaign pushed the Federal National Council to propose a law regarding dress code.

Some Emirati activists want to protect the local culture from being ravaged by Western habits in the country's cosmopolitan society. While the Emiratis have preserved their local dress, they want to ensure a minimum level of decency in public places.

Many awareness signs were put in malls to urge shoppers to follow certain dressing guidelines but with no effective results. The online dress code campaign has attracted the support of many netizens.

Dress code at a Dubai mall. Photo from Flickr by Zahid Lilani. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When in Rome…

The campaign's official Twitter account said:

@UAEDressCode: Everyone can wear freely wat they like, but with simple limits. Extra inches of cloth won't kill you. #UAEDressCode #UAEDecency

Indian expat in the Emirates Farrukh Naeem tweeted:

@farrukhnaeem: I support #UAEDressCode as an Indian expat who respects his host – just like I would expect non-Indians to respect my culture back home

Abdulla AlKendi tweeted:

@AbdullaAlKendi: If you are against #UAEDressCode which is part of #UAEDecency Law, then you shall be pleased when people call you ‘b****’

Madonna and the UAE dress code

One of the things that prompted criticism towards Madonna's recent concerts in Abu Dhabi was the costumes. Writer Sandra Hiari said:

@sandra_hiari: Madonna won't certainly accept a #UAEDressCode. I wonder what the causes of the movement are; cultural?

Madonna performing in a skirt on June 12 in Rome, Italy, which is part of her MDNA Tour. Photo from Flickr by Luigi Orru. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Madonna performing in a skirt on June 12 in Rome, Italy, which is part of her MDNA Tour. Photo from Flickr by Luigi Orru. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Blogger Woman Unveiled posted:

I definitely support Al Muhair and Al Rayes’ movement. […] In the case of Madonna’s outfits and dance moves though, I think the context allows for some leniency. Plus, it’s not like anyone was forced to go. Fans of hers know that she can get quirky while entertaining live, and most look forward to what she has planned. With that being said, I know that some restraint on her part would’ve been applauded by her fans in the Arab World.

Are men affected by the new dress code?

Some women voiced their concerns about the revealing dress of some men. Blogger Umm Qahtan tweeted:

@UmmQahtan: men also need to cover their chests & not wear such tight shorts/pants it's sick when they adjust themself

Pam, an expatriate blogger, posted:

Everything I have read is directed at the way women dress. This has made me uncomfortable as I have also seen men dress inappropriately just as many times as women. If men are not included then such a law could be mistaken for the repression of women.

The UAE Dress Code campaign assured them that men will be indeed part of the new dress code:

@UAEDressCode: Men are also included they have to apply the dress code. :) #uaedresscode

How to implement the new law?

Expatriate blogger Pam outlined a strategy to implement the envisaged dress-code law:

I would recommend before implementing a dress code into law, the government invest in an education campaign. This has not been tried yet. Perhaps it is under consideration. Assuming the application of fining or punishing someone for inappropriate dress takes resources, time and money; just think of the savings for the judicial system. And not just the money – would you prefer to have your policemen chasing after people dressing inappropriately, or would you rather they focus on real criminals? Education is the key. Educate residents and tourists, and insist that the security at facilities ask people to leave the premises if they do not abide.

Dubai's Desperate Housewife raised the issue of the absence of criteria to define decent clothes posting:

But of course “inappropriate” is quite subjective. How do you quantify “respectful dressing”? A woman could be covered from neck to ankle in clothes so tight they hide nothing, while another could be wearing baggy shorts that show a little leg above the knee, but be far more chaste. […] But while some things are clearly not acceptable, there’s a large grey area. I almost feel we need an online service where we can ask before going out, “showing 80 per cent arms but zero per cent leg, outfit 50 per cent tight – what’s my decency rating?”


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