June 09, 2019

Peradeniya University’s proposed dress code opposed

The University of Peradeniya (UOP) has issued a clarification on its previous notice prohibiting students to wear ‘long sleeved wears’ and ‘Abayas’ as part of its special security measures.

This comes as lecturers attached to the university brought to its Vice Chancellor Prof. Upul Dissanayake’s notice that the move is problematic and could cause discrimination to certain students.

The Center for Distance and Continuing Education (CDCE) of the UOP issued a notice last week stating that at the forthcoming examinations students are ‘not allowed to enter the examination centres covering his/her face. Burqa and Niqab are strictly banned in examination centres. Further, all candidates are advised not to wear long sleeve wears and Abayas’.

Clarification on the above reads, ‘The Center has advised candidates not to wear long sleeves and Abaya. We have not banned them. However, all candidates will be screened by University security before they are admitted to the examination hall’.

“This was a thoughtless act on the part of CDCE, which I am sure was not done with any malicious intent,” Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan of the UOP said adding, “Some of us saw this notice on Face book and in other forums and we could see that there was a lot of confusion among the students as to the meaning of the advice delivered.”

She said Abayas are an acceptable form of dress, and long sleeves are a common part of the UOP’s attire.

“Some lecturers did bring it to the notice of the Vice Chancellor and from what I understand he did revoke or clarify the issue immediately,” she said.

It is reported that the exams were conducted without any issues and smoothly, with students wearing what they usually do.

Speaking about the notices issued earlier by the University Grants Commission Sivamohan that Abhayas are a part of accepted attire for all members of the University community.

“This directive on the part of the CDCE was quite unfortunate, but I am glad that both the CDCE management and the Vice Chancellor took prompt action to remedy it,” she added.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer the Vice Chancellor Prof. Dissanayake confirmed that the examinations were held smoothly.

Under Article 32A of the emergency regulations the Government took measures to ban the Burqa and Niqab as a security measure following the Easter Sunday terror attacks that left 159 dead and nearly 500 others injured. The move due to its vagueness, initially caused confusion among the public. The authorities concerned later took measures to clarify the issue.

Despite the Government’s clarification on the Burqa and Niqab ban Muslim women clad in abhaya’s were harassed on multiple occasions prompting the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) to issue a communiqué urging the public to abstain from troubling, harassing and insulting Muslim women during their day-to-day activities.

Last week the Ministry of Public Administration and Disaster Management suspended its decision to impose a dress code to employees attached to the state sector. In a circular to Secretaries of Ministries, the ministry secretary J.J. Rathnasiri erroneously made it compulsory for female employees attached to the public sector to wear the Saree or the Osari (Kandyan saree) to work stating that the measure was taken to ensure national security.

“When public officers arrive at their office premises during the office hours, male officers should be wearing trouser and shirt or national dress whilst female officers should be wearing saree or Osari,” the now suspended circular declared.

The UOP Convener of the Inter University Students Federation, Mahil Bandara, said they are standing against measures to impose dress codes as it directly violates a person’s rights.

“This will only create ethnic tensions within communities. In this case, within universities. There is no basis for introducing laws for what people should wear without having a proper dialogue.

People should understand why it is needed and not be forced to do it,” Bandara said. 

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