Institute tells Bosnian schoolgirls to cover up

A few days ago, the Pedagogical Institute of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a new "Code of Ethics" for elementary schools. However, what was presented to the public was nothing but a puritan dress code. For girls.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Institute tells Bosnian schoolgirls to cover up - NewsMavens
Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Calling skirt and sleeve length an ethical matter is a troublesome statement, particularly when it comes with an explicit list of -- mostly female -- body parts that cannot be shown. But the language used to present the dress code is even more alarming.

Students won't be allowed to wear "tight, short or provocative clothes or makeup" or have "untidy, flashy or very long nails". 

Even if the "Code of Ethics" does not explicitly state that its provisions target girls, it refers almost exclusively to items traditionally associated with womenswear.

This type of dress code reinforces the harmful stereotype that the way a woman -- or, in this case, a child -- dresses should be regulated based on the effect it could have on men.

This is a logic that is often used when justifying acts of sexual violence against women, and it has no place in the statements of education officials -- especially not in the guise of "ethical" guidelines.

Details from the story:

  • Last year, the Pedagogical Institute of Republika Srpska announced that they will issue a so-called "Code of Ethics" for elementary schools.
  • In November 2017, the institute created a work group to draft the code, announcing that it will strive to "establish and preserve moral values and professional ethics"
  • The document is still not available to the public, but its content was already disclosed and is almost entirely dedicated to regulating the outfits of female teachers and students.
  • Predrag Damjanović, the director of the institute, said that new rules will prohibit teachers from "wearing shorts or leather trousers, jeans, sleeveless or low neckline shirts", or "baring their breasts or belly", while skirts and dresses will have to reach "below the knee".
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