Earlier this week, the “Burqa Ban” went into effect in France. Since passing into law, several burqa draped women have already been arrested, and the symbolic law is causing an uproar among the Muslim population of France and beyond. However, France is not the only country with authoritative garment laws. Many countries possess laws that limit what citizens and visitors are allowed to wear.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, these five countries have some of the strictest dress code laws in the world. The list includes countries from three continents, though France is the lone western world inclusion. It is odd that a country known for its fashion houses and pioneering designers is also home to such an autocratic fashion law. I would expect this sort of posturing from the American South, but clothing oppression along the Champs-Élysées seems a bit misplaced.France – Ban on burqas and niqabs
In April 2011, France’s law against burqas and niqabs went into effect. Essentially, the law is a ban on the traditional female Muslim dress and allows a police officer to verbally request removal of the veil before escorting any violator to a police station for ID verification and removal. Gadling blogger Meg Nesterov covered all of the details in a post earlier this week. The fine is 150 Euros for a first time offender and 30,000 Euros for a male that forces a woman to wear a burqa or niqab. I believe the excessiveness of the 30,000 Euro fine reveals the true intent of the law, but to fight the perception of oppression across cultures with oppression is a bizarre strategy.
Saudi Arabia – Ban on bare skin and cross-dressing
The old Kingdom of Saud has always been a leader in fashion constriction. Saudi Arabia is home to some of the strictest social laws on the planet, many applying exclusively to women. This separation of legal restrictions by sex seems austere by western standards, and though every country governs from a different cultural perspective, Saudi Arabia seems excessively sexist – placing 129 out of 134 countries in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report. Aside from requiring a male guardian, a Saudi Woman must also wear a niqab and abaya in public as to not expose bare skin. Men also have restrictions – they are not allowed to cross-dress.
Bhutan – Required gho and kira in public
Considered one of the happiest countries on the planet, Bhutan calculates its output in GNH – Gross National Happiness. While it is rare to read a word on Bhutan without being reintroduced to this policy on happiness, there are also other, less known measures in place to maintain Bhutanese culture. For example, all Bhutanese citizens must adhere to a strict dress code. In public, men must wear a gho – a knee length robe, and women must wear a kimono known as a kira. The dress code is older than the current kingdom and is known as Driglam Namzha.
North Korea – No pants for ladies and hair cuts for man
The hermit kingdom is one of the least visited countries on the planet. The lack of outside influences has bolstered the frozen in time North Korean culture. North Korea has a dead president, a money-pit ghostscraper, and laws governing a man’s maximum hair length. In North Korea, men are supposed to trim their hair every 15 days, and older men are given leniency so that their hair can grow long enough to cover bald spots. While most men are allotted a maximum hair length of two inches, fifty year old men and older can grow their hair an additional 3/4 inch. Women are not permitted to wear pants, and if an infraction occurs, the pant wearing offender faces a stint at one of the North’s horrendous labor camps.
Sudan – No make-up for men and lashes for pant-wearing women
In Sudan, women are punished for wearing pants with lashes and a hefty fine. Sudanese public decency laws are extremely strict and bear the beliefs of the predominantly Arab north. The tumultuous country is home to violent religious differences. With almost 600 ethnicities and a serious wedge between the Muslim north and Christian south, Sudan has been a poster child for racial intolerance for decades. While women are prohibited from wearing trousers, men too have laws governing their behavior. Last December, seven men were arrested and charged with public indecency for wearing makeup at a fashion show.
flickr images via Ranoush & Jadis 1958