BAGHDAD, Jan. 25 (AKnews) – A controversial order by the Iraq Ministry for Women Affairs to dress formally in state institutions has set off outrage among women activists who have described the bill as a restriction on women freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.
The Ministry issued regulations in September last year to all ministries and government offices that women employees should wear formal dresses that suits with the government work but without defining specific colors or deigns leaving that for the institutions to choose depending on the nature of their works. And recently, the ministry tightened up the regulations on women.
Iraq's Minister of State for Women Affairs Ibthal al-Zaidi told AKnews that the new regulations were issued after they had noticed that women employees went to work in dresses not conforming to the formal dresses "that are meant to respect the government institutions"
"The ministry of women affairs is not standing in against the freedoms of women and is not restricting them as they are guaranteed in the constitution." Said al-Zaidi, "But we are saying that [government employed] women should have particular formal dresses as it is the case in all countries in the world"
But a women activist Ala al-Jubouri says the decision is a "clear violation" of the Iraqi constitution which states on freedoms.
"If the government is keen on improving the reputation of Iraq and the reputation of the government employee, then there is the financial and administrative corruption, which is choking the Iraqi citizens, to address"
A good image of Iraq is not in the female government employees' dresses, but in improving its ranking in the Transparency International's Corruption Index where Iraq currently is fifth most corrupt country in the world, she says.
Shamirn Markost, secretary of Iraqi Women League – a women rights association – said the new regulations could create a crisis in the country as it is "interference" in the personal freedoms.
"This contradicts the principle of democracy on which the country has been based after 2003" Markost said. "The Iraqi government has to review go back on such decisions to avoid creating crises"
She said there were more important issues in the country for the Ministry of Women to address instead: care for widows, divorcees and orphans.