Journalist denied entry into Defence Ministry HQ for showing knees

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A journalist from The Star was barred from entering the Defence Ministry headquarters in Ampang yesterday after being told she had violated the dress code, the latest in a series of overzealous enforcements of dress codes.Tashny Sukumaran wrote in The Star that she had gone to the ministry to cover an event attended by the prime minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the defence minister and his deputy.”I was dressed in a simple black-and-white piece with short sleeves and a hemline that ended just above my knees,” she wrote in the report.

“Despite what I thought to be decent attire, I was denied entry at the guardhouse.”Tashny said she was told that security had denied her entry as her “knees were showing” despite her protests that she was a reporter and had worn similar outfits to the ministry without any trouble before.”At this point, another military policeman politely ‘assessed’ my outfit, saying that I had violated the dress code. I said there should be consistency when enforcing the dress code, not as and when they like.”

Fearing the risk of missing her assignment, Tashny then retrieved a long printed skirt that she kept in her car for instances such as this.After donning the skirt over her dress, Tashny was told by another officer that she looked “nice like this as well”.”I found the comment unprofessional. I later raised the issue with the deputy minister, who laughed it off.”I couldn’t help thinking: if people meant to defend the nation can become so distracted by a pair of kneecaps, then our country is in trouble.”

Recent cases of overzealous enforcement of dress codes at government departments include an incident at the Gombak office of the Road Transport Department (RTD), where a guard ordered a woman to wear a sarong.On June 16, another woman was told to cover her legs before she was allowed into the Sungai Buloh hospital. She was not given a sarong to wear but wrapped herself in a borrowed towel.

On June 22, two women, one of them a New Straits Times reporter, were refused entry into the Selangor state government building as they were wearing skirts.A week later, two women were barred from entering the Selangor government secretariat in Shah Alam for wearing skirts that were above their knees.Since then, other incidents at a Land Office and at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport have been reported on social media and widely shared by users.

De facto law minister Nancy Shukri said yesterday that handing out sarongs to visitors to cover up at government offices should be discouraged as it was unhygienic.She said that while the public was allowed to dress as they liked in a democratic country, sensible Malaysians would abide by the government office dress codes and wear decent attire.”I disagree with the practice of handing out sarongs due to hygiene-related issues. It is none of your business to hand over sarongs to the people.”You don’t know when was the last time the sarong was cleaned. You give it to one person, then you give it to another.”I don’t encourage this on the grounds that it is unhygienic,” the minister in the prime minister’s department said. – July 3, 2015.

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