Public health org in Bangladesh orders Islamic dress code at office

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 09:25pm on October 29, 2020

The Institute of Public Health in an order has directed its Muslim officers and staff to mandatorily follow the Islamic dress code rules of covering their bodies at the office.

The order, issued by IPH director Mohammad Abdur Rahim on Wednesday, asked the male employees to wear clothes above the ankles and the female ones below the ankles with hijab.  

The order also asked all its employees to keep their mobile phones in the silent mode or switched-off during the office hours.

The order sparked an outcry on social media, prompting the health ministry to issue a show-cause notice to the IPH director over the directive.

The Directorate General of Health Services also ordered the withdrawal of the IPH directive and sought action from the health ministry against Abdur Rahim.

The health ministry in its show-cause notice on Thursday asked the IPH director to explain within three working days the authority and rules upon which he issued the order.

DGHS additional director general Nasima Sultana said that they came to know about the IPH order on Thursday.

‘It’s [the IPH order] completely unacceptable and a violation of service rules,’ she told New Age.

‘Abdur Rahim has no authority to issue such an order,’ she added.

Nasima said that the DGHS ordered the rescinding of the IPH order and communicated the matter to the health ministry seeking actions against the IPH director.

Abdur Rahim could not be reached for comment.

Nasima said that the DGHS was looking for him.

‘We have summoned him to the DGHS on Thursday, but his mobile phone is switched-off,’ she said.

Retired civil servant and governance campaigner Hafiz Uddin Khan said that dress codes in government services are applicable for particular jobs like those of the police and defence forces.

'Issuing any order to wear particular dresses or follow particular styles is illegal and not governed by any service rule in Bangladesh,' he said

Dhaka University sociology professor Sadeka Halim said that such orders went against the right to freedom of wearing a dress for comfort.

‘Everyone wears a presentable dress of their personal choice, not an indecent dress, at their workplace. But imposing a particular dress on employees goes against their freedom to wear dresses that are comfortable for them,’ she said.