Skirts and pants become issue again in Parliament

Meera (left) and Tan had to fight their way into Parliament yesterday after security personnel deemed their skirts were too short. — Picture by Razak Ghazali.
Meera (left) and Tan had to fight their way into Parliament yesterday after security personnel deemed their skirts were too short. — Picture by Razak Ghazali.

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — It’s 2017 and women are still being judged by their hemlines. 

Latest victim?

Women’s Air Organisation (WAO) assistant treasurer Meera Samanther.

Meera was stopped by security personnel who deemed her dress to be “indecent” for Parliament grounds. 

“I was taken by surprise when I was stopped by security personnel,” she said.

“They said I will not be allowed to enter the building as my skirt was too short. I just didn’t know how to react. I was taken aback,” she said.

A lawyer by profession, Meera said she has worn the same knee-length black dress to court and it had never been an issue. 

“The court never had a problem with my dress so I can’t understand what is the problem here. I am not wearing a mini-skirt,” she said.

Meera said she went to Parliament with others from women non-governmental organisations to meet Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran and M. Indira Gandhi following the deferment of the debate on the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill to the next Parliament session. 

“I am a lawyer and I go to courts and other places. I certainly know how to dress. This is just unacceptable,” she said.

Meera said security personnel should be concerned whether someone was carrying  dangerous objects or explosives and not fuss about hemlines. 

“The length of my skirt is not a security matter. Moral policing in our august House has to stop,” she said.

“The security personnel’s duty is to ensure safety and security and to make sure no unauthorised people enter the restricted area. That is their job. I don’t think determining the lenght of skirts is their job.”

Meera said people should not be harassed when they enter Parliament as the “House of democracy belongs to all citizens”. 

“I had to raise my voice and also argue with them that this dress had never prevented me from entering any place before and I don’t enjoy speaking in that tone to people,” she said. 

Meera’s colleague, WAO communication officer Tan Heang-Lee, who also wore a knee-length skirt, was told to get out of her car at the guardhouse so security personnel could make sure her skirt was “decent” for her to enter Parliament.

“I wound down my window to collect the visitor’s pass from a security personnel. He looked into the car and told me to get out so he could see the length of my skirt,” she said. 

Tan said she was surprised with such procedures as she too had worn skirts of the same length to other government departments. 

She said the security personnel only let her enter Parliament when they were satisfied with the length of her skirt. 

“This policing of women’s clothing is uncalled for and insulting. They should not be scrutinising women’s clothing when we enter Parliament,” she said. 

Kulasegaran also said he had to go to the guardhouse yesterday to assist Indira’s daughter who was prevented from entering the building.

“Tevi Darsiny, 19, was not allowed into the building after her pants was deemed too tight,” he said. 

Kulasegaran said he did not see anything wrong with her dressing, as she was not wearing jeans nor was her blouse transparent.

“They only allowed her in after much fuss. I can’t understand the issue in the first place,” he said.

He said what happened was unecessary.

“Since when are security personnel tasked to do moral policing? I can understand if a person is skimpily dressed, but this is not the case,” he said.

* The print version of this story contained a typo error which has since been corrected here.

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