Polytechnic bans the wearing of certain items of clothing

A Zimbabwean polytechnic has banned 15 types of clothing on its campus and during the college’s off-campus functions, saying students must dress as per the trade they are studying towards – but female students are mostly affected by the new rules.

The Bulawayo Polytechnic listed ripped jeans; sleeveless tops and dresses; string tops and string dresses; blouses or tops that show the stomach; off-shoulder tops and dresses; tops and dresses that show breast cleavages; tops and dresses with open backs, biker and bum shorts; skintights and other tight-fitting clothes; skirts, shorts and dresses that are five centimetres above the knees; see-through clothes; caps in class and offices for everyone and no headgear for male students in classes and in offices, except on religious grounds; dropping off of trousers and shorts, vents that are more than 5cm above the knee, and slippers.

“The institution’s mandate is to train and groom professionals for commerce and industry. Therefore, the following [way of] dressing is not recommended on campus and at functions of the Bulawayo Polytechnic off the campus,” said Chiedza Masanganise, the institution’s principal, in a notice to all students.

“If not properly dressed, the student will be asked to correct [the appearance] before accessing any Bulawayo polytechnic facility and lecturers. As an institution, we encourage you to be dressed according to your trade.”

Bans at other institutions

Last year, a church-run university in the country, the Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU), banned some clothes, sparking both anger and support in some quarters.

ZEGU said students should select and wear clothing that gives dignity and an expression of “our God-given ability to appreciate beauty, creativity, harmony and good taste”.

“We want to remind all students that: ZEGU encourages students to develop a lasting philosophy of good dressing and grooming. Therefore, take care of the following principle ‘tight clothing (eg skintights, leggings) cut-off or miniskirts (anything more than five centimetres above the knees) shorts, slippers, tops that reveal breast cleavages, backouts, crop-tops or stomach-outs, bandeaux, see-throughs and other kinds of inappropriate clothing are not allowed on campus (especially classes and church services) and other university-related off-campus functions.

“Lecturers can bar students from attending lectures if they are not dressed appropriately,” the university said.

However, in an interview withUniversity World News, a leading Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said that, when a university is given a charter, it will be an equal opportunities university, admitting students without discrimination.

“Also, these students are adults who, in terms of the constitution, are allowed freedom of movement, freedom of expression and other freedoms.

“What you wear, in a way, can be classified as a way of expressing yourself. It’s also a basic human right to wear what you want. I don’t think it’s lawful to prescribe what an adult should wear, particularly at a tertiary institution,” said Muchadehama, who also queried why the dress code is targeted at female students only.

He dismissed claims that ‘inappropriate’ clothing may disturb others on campus.

“It’s a male chauvinistic way of approaching how women should conduct themselves in public. If we follow that, we will end up like Afghanistan, where they say women should not drive, should not go to school, and should wear things that cover their faces and legs in public. That is too backward. It should never be allowed in a democratic society,” he said.