No Written Rules Banning Sleeveless Dresses: An Access to Information Story

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!

Right Steps & Poui Trees

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.PM May - Trump visit 7-2018

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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4 thoughts on “No Written Rules Banning Sleeveless Dresses: An Access to Information Story

  1. I can’t believe we Jamaicans are still caught up in this VICTORIAN nonsense. It’s about the war on women’s bodies and our right to function in society without FALSE modesty. Are our arms erogenous zones? Somehow offensive?

    Then why on God’s green earth do we need *arm Hijabs* to go into a public building?

    Frankly, the whole idea is completely ridiculous. They’d have to shoot me to stop me entering hospital if someone I loved was needing health care. Which means I’d be a patient or maybe dead. That is a frightful idea! I’ve been a modest person all my life, but my arms and my knees are apparently unacceptable in public (I’ve been told by some that long shorts are also inappropriate clothing — no matter that they are not tight and touch my knees). Is this the Caribbean still or Victorian England?

    It really is time we grew up and let go of the Victorian/Saudi Arabian ideas of what is appropriate behavior for women to wear… or to do.


    1. Ridiculous is the only word that I can think of. It IS Victorian – or rather, colonial. LONG shorts are also bad? That’s crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a kind of power/control thing – Government officials making rules for the public that they serve. Truly a colonial hangover, I’m sure. Anyway, these rules apparently have no legal power behind them – so, let’s see what happens. PS I love “arm Hijabs”!!

      Liked by 1 person

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