Recently, my 68-year-old husband was turned away at the Klang Police station for being in shorts.
He had gone there to obtain a permit to go to the National Heart Centre (IJN) to refill his quarterly prescription.
When they turn away an elderly gentleman, like my husband with a heart condition, we need to seriously rethink and question policies such as these.
Personally, I feel that IPD Klang’s priorities are seriously misplaced when issues of dress take precedence over the service they have sworn to provide. Our police force should serve everyone, regardless of class, race, religion and culture. When they refused to serve my husband because of his choice of clothing, I think our system is as good as failing.
In 2015 it was definitively stated in Parliament that there is no dress code for the public when dealing with government departments and agencies.
So, has something changed since then? If it has, has anyone considered the implications of such a directive? In which direction are we as a nation heading?
Directives like this are problematic on many levels.
For one, it mocks our nation’s attempts to be a caring society because it looks as if we have a policy for people who deserve ‘service’ and those who don’t, based on the type of clothes they are wearing.
Or is this matter moot? Aspiring to become a ‘caring society’ is perhaps no longer on the charts.
On another level, the policy may be seen as ‘forcing’ a ‘dress code’ upon the public by withholding the service provided by the agency, to which the public are already entitled to.
This is unethical and unjustifiable. Ideally, no one should be told what to wear. A policy that ‘forces’ us to comply intrinsically challenges the freedom of the people.
Yet, apparently, none of these arguments about ‘freedom’, ‘choice’, and ‘force’ have been able to make a dent in the case against the dress code policy. The controversies have continued to erupt.
In the end, one suspects that the real reasons underpinning these policies are really about religious and moral ‘value’ judgements and about sin and temptation.
Seen through this context, it is possible that some clothes may be perceived as being too ‘scintillating’ and ‘indecent’. Perhaps my 68-year-old husband’s baggy shorts that were only a couple of centimetres above his knees may have fallen crudely into this category.
So why was my husband really turned away? Perhaps he was being forced to acknowledge that it is ‘the state’ that decides what he should wear. Or were the police, suggesting that my husband was technically ‘indecent’ because of the choice of ‘shorts’ he wore that day?
So here is my million-dollar question. Are we less-deserving people if we choose to wear a skirt or a pair of shorts? As long as it does not violate criminal laws, I believe, all clothes we wear, socially or culturally, should be acceptable by all government agencies and departments.
It is their duty to provide service. What is not their duty, business or responsibility is to preach and admonish.
My husband is a good man and, in my opinion, he has much more of a moral compass than many of our ‘well-heeled’ politicians can ever claim to have, shorts or not.
And so, I am silently pondering here, in which direction we are slowly drifting to, as a people and as a nation.
Sukeshini Nair, a former school principal, lives in Klang