For some time now, there has been much discussion (especially among women) about the rigid and at times complex dress code rules for entry to government offices (and thus, access to government services). We have all complained on social media and written articles, but…that’s not enough. So many kudos to Susan Goffe, who has taken the bull by the horns and, in her own methodical and persistent way, got to the bottom of the matter. It turns out that there are no official regulations or laws at all prescribing certain modes of dress. Well, well! NB A friend recalls taking her very young and seriously ill daughter to a public hospital and being denied entry because she was wearing a tank top. Fortunately, she found a shirt to wear! (I understand this is also an issue in Trinidad. Is this a colonial hangover, put in place by someone who thought it was a great idea to keep people in their place?) Be that as it may, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has responded on Twitter, thus: “I had tasked @Babsy_grange to examine and review the practice of prohibiting women who wear sleeveless attire from government facilities. As a modern society, we must evolve.” Indeed, we must! We look forward to swift action on this long-standing matter from our Gender Affairs Minister…Meanwhile, thanks again, Susan!
I look at the Gleaner this morning and see that the issue of the banning of women wearing sleeveless dresses is again in the news here in Jamaica. The Gleaner’s editorial entitled “Dressing Sleeveless in Jamaica” was sparked by social media commentary pointing out “that women in Jamaica could not dress like Mrs May to enter several government departments and agencies, including hospitals, prisons and schools.” This was a reference to the UK Prime Minister’s sleeveless attire in a formal setting during the official visit of the US President.
But we don’t have to go that far afield to show the disparity between what is accepted in a formal setting and what will get a Jamaican woman barred from entry to do business in some government entities. We only need to look at our own Governor General’s wife at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Andrew Holness at King’s House in 2016…
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