Grange tasked with reviewing 'no-sleeveless' policy

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he has tasked Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange to examine and review the practice of prohibiting women who wear sleeveless attire from government facilities.

The prime minister made the disclosure a short while ago via his official Twitter page where he said that “as a modern society, we must evolve”.

One Twitter user in response to the announcement noted that Holness said "examine and review" and not "change", expressing hope that this examination and review will lead to pratical changes.

Calls to get rid of the "no-sleeveless" policy have been at the forefront for years with mostly women being affected.

Up to last year, gender research expert Professor Verene Shepherd made a call for the Government to revise its dress code for the public's interaction with its agencies and departments to reflect a more modern society — a call which has gained widespread support.

Professor Shepherd in November questioned the origin of the "no sleeveless" rule at Government offices and institutions in Jamaica after sharing that she went to a high school in St Thomas and the security guard looked into her vehicle and asked if anyone in the group was wearing a sleeveless top.

Her post led to a number of her social media followers, mainly women, beginning with Latoya West-Blackwood, speaking out against the rule, the hindrances it has caused, and questioning its necessity in modern society.

Further, in November 2017, St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna was labelled as an attention-seeker for wearing a black, cap-sleeved dress to the House of Parliament.

In 2015 as well, the Observer's All Woman magazine explored the issue of "no sleeveless" attire in public agencies after a businesswoman was turned away from doing business at the then Kingston and St Andrew Corporation because she was wearing a dress with capped sleeves.

The 2015 story also highlighted the views of some individuals that the rules smack of Christian fundamentalism and a push to sexualise women's bodies.

One expert warned that this oversexualising is as bad as what obtains in “rape culture”, where some people believe women ask to be raped because of the clothes they wear.

“Let us not view modesty as an outdated kind of concept. Modesty is a virtue to aspire to. I am not making modesty the enemy,” Reverend Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, said at the time.

“However, I believe too many of our dress codes, whether wittingly or unwittingly, end up with this oversexualising mode, because if you check it out, I would be willing to hazard a guess that the majority of these target women.”

Shanica Blair

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