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#StudentSpeak: Is The Bar Council Right In Asking For A Dress Code At Law Colleges?

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By YKA Staff

Editor’s note: On 4th April, a female student alleged that a professor made remarks on her character for wearing shorts to class. Two days later, to protest against the teacher’s actions, the entire class wore shorts to class. Following this incident, the Bar Council of India (BCI) issued a circular asking all law schools to implement a dress code of ‘white shirt and black trousers’ for all students. The final implementation is up to the colleges. We received an overwhelming number of responses when we asked students about their thoughts on this issue and having a dress code in college. This is what some of them had to say:

Law-college-dress codeAfiya Khalid:

I don’t support this. We should condemn this move by the BCI. This shows how even institutions like BCI and UGC have patriarchal settlements embedded in their structure. Compulsory dress codes are not just about dress, these are the ways through which women’s bodies and sexuality can be controlled.
Other than this, for example in Islam, Muslim women like us have to practice Hijab or Burqa. My mother also told me that you face harassment on campus because you wear jeans. However, there are a lot of cases where Burqa wearing women get raped. BCI should rollback on this issue and should attend some workshops on gender sensitivity.

Surya Sahu:

I think a dress code should be there and implemented strictly. Dress code gives a feeling of equality among students. It’s a sign of dignity and respect towards the profession.

Mayur Suman:

I read about the NLS Bangalore incident, and would like to comment on the event. Our constitution gives us ‘freedom of expression’, so based on that, I would say that it’s the student’s right to decide what to wear on campus. But colleges and universities might argue that as an institution they decide the rules here and students need to follow if they want to continue their studies.

But if we observe the turn of events it’s the women or girls, who are targeted for wearing shorts to class and not boys or men. From this we come to know that there is still this mentality in our campuses which believe that a woman in a skirt or shorts arouses the feelings of men, and this finally leads to rape.

I think the solution for this should be creating pressure groups on campus to oppose such incidents, the students of NLS Bangalore did a great job, I think other incidents like sexual harassment, bullying, etc. should also be tackled, and we also need to start discussions about gender equality in colleges among students.

I believe women are capable of defending themselves, they can also take their own decisions, what they need is an atmosphere in which men and women are treated equally with dignity.

Vaibhav Wadhwa:

I believe that a dress code for professional courses, like Law and MBA, where candidates will be expected to wear a uniform as a professional is OK, but only to an extent. A day or two every week is fine, but making them wear the same thing, in the name of a discipline is moral policing. I mean, in the end, we are just students, a girl wearing shorts was looked down upon, that is what we need to change, and not the dress code.

I have had a similar case in my college, the college management barred the BBA students from even wearing jeans and forced them to wear a uniform. After much negotiation, it was decided to be a 3-day affair. Similarly, girls are not allowed to wear shorts, which is wrong. I would strongly suggest that we take some steps now, before the people who have power, use it to force their ideas and mindset upon us.

Preeti Yadav, P.U. Regional Centre, Ludhiana

I am a law student. Our college has yet not implemented a dress code throughout the session but we do follow one only on Wednesday to give students a ‘feel’ that they belong to a law college and are upcoming lawyers.

However, even on these Wednesdays students can be seen around roaming in black and white but not necessarily’ black trousers’ and ‘ white shirts’. Some professors do not allow this in their class while the others just care about ‘white and black’. I remember, we had a teacher last year who would check each student’s uniform including shoes and then allow them in the lecture.

In an educational institution, we stand with dignity and liberty. Wearing shorts is definitely not an option. Jeans, long skirts, etc. are already not informal clothes that are allowed to students who would one day be a part of a profession needs a uniform. Uniforms are an integral part of a lawyer’s life, and still, colleges and universities allow informal which is quite a liberty.

Shivani Chimnani, B.L.S. LL.B Candidate, Government Law College, Mumbai.

In my personal opinion, the Bar Council of India’s recommendation is not utterly absurd as people will deem it to be, the legal profession is regarded to be a thoroughly reputable and highly disciplined one represented by the highest class of erudites. Having a professional dress code for law students is not wrong as long as it is gender neutral. This is without prejudice to the remarks made by the professor which were undisputedly unacceptable. The question of comfort poses a problem if shirts and trousers are imposed but if the BCI can find a middle ground to ensure comfort as well as professionalism, it is not an entirely bad idea.

Saurabh Tiwari:

Law as a subject and as a profession gained a distinct identity over a period of time. If the judiciary is one of the four pillars of democracy we can say that law students are the gravel that allow these pillars to stand erect.

Hectic curriculum, hilarious results, and hopeful future, apart from these three aspects if a student has to think about his uniform, how could s/he cope with the burden of the syllabus? BCI should think about the welfare of its students rather thinking about how the students should dress. If you are thinking about solving several lakh cases then you better not to mess with your future professionals.

Anuprova Ghose:

It’s not a completely valid judgement that has been given by BCI, I feel. Dress can’t be a yardstick for measuring one’s sense of morality. Since people tend to be modern so modernity should start from their rationale and the way they think and not merely be limited to books. If we try to see it in the other way, it’s true that to a certain extent keeping a uniformity in dress code maintains a uniform in class hierarchy, at least in educational institutions. But as far as the condemnation of students is concerned especially with respect to their sense of dressing, it should not be a deciding factor even for teachers to pass comments on.

Shivanshi Khanna, LSR:

Firstly, the entire episode that took place at the so-called best law college in India is not only disappointing but also shocking and secondly, when we expected some sort of sense from the governing body, we came across what BCI had to say to the law universities.
As far as I remember, students of my college are allowed to wear anything that they wish to wear – right from a salwar kameez to a top and shorts. What’s even great is that none of our teachers have ever questioned us on the way we dress or tried to connect our morality by the choice of our clothing. Of course, that is what sensible people ought to do – respect a person’s right to wear whatever they want to.

BCI issuing a statement claiming that it is ‘gradually distracting’ to wear shorts at a law college has made me think again – will our perception about things ever change? Will we as a country emerge out to be broadminded and respectful of a woman’s choice to wear whatever she wants to? What makes them, think that wearing shorts is not a proper way of dressing up at a law college?

It is perturbing to even think of a situation where students will be forced to follow a dress code in the name of matching the ‘standards of discipline’. Such suggestions are not based on the notion of sorting out the matter and bringing out justice. Also, such measures are not corrective but destructive in nature.

The way a person chooses to dress has nothing to do with one’s character.

Swarnima Pandit, ILS Law College, Pune:

I feel the Bar Council’s directions with respect to uniform dress code comes as a necessary instruction to law colleges across the country. Being a law student myself, I feel the field we work in demands immense professionalism and work ethics. When I joined college as a fresher, I was amused at the wide array of dresses worn by students from all classes. Apart from creating an apparent divide and gauging income disparities, students also indulged in discussions revolving the same.

While such freedom could be deemed necessary by a few, it should not come at the cost of inducing certain stereotypes, which could be a direct consequence of the same. Also, moral policing is an entirely different concept which could’ve been the case if the directions were to prohibit any student from wearing any form of clothes which is not deemed ‘decent’ by them.

A uniform dress code for all students, irrespective of gender paves way for uniformity and discipline. The fact that this is the official attire for work and internships in this field further increases its relevancy.

Hence, I feel that this step should be welcomed and implemented at the earliest by all law colleges to facilitate a conducive and professional environment.

Simran Nandrajog, Ashoka University:

In my opinion, clothing is a personal choice, and educational institutions have no right to implement a dress code in the name of decency and culture.
Wearing shorts or jeans doesn’t make a woman characterless, nor does wearing salwar kameez indicate that she is well mannered. Therefore, it is not a good idea to have a mandatory dress code in colleges.

Meghna Mehra:

I believe it’s a form of moral policing. College is a place where we discover new things. We have freedom to wear whatever we like. Certainly there is a need for a dress codes during formal events like meetings but enforcing one every day is more like policing.

A student should be made comfortable in their own skin. In my opinion dress codes shouldn’t be forced on anybody.

Prity Dwivedi:

After a certain age, we are considered smart enough to cast our vote based on our own understanding. Same applies with our attire. College is a place to express uniqueness, diversity. People express themselves with their dresses. And even if someone wants to attract others with their dresses, what’s wrong with it? It’s their body, they should be given the freedom to wear whatever they like. When you are at college you need to strike a balance between wearing your identity and maintaining a social decorum. But if somebody is getting distracted by someone’s dress then it’s their problem. It’d be unfair to force a dress code on students. Anything forced becomes ugly no matter how beautiful it is.

Hardeep Singh, GGDSD College, Chandigarh:

I don’t think that a dress code for any institution should be made mandatory. We as students should be given the liberty to express ourselves through our sense of dressing, rather than be conditioned to dress in a certain way.

One incident that I am reminded of is when two teams from our college went to Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala, in September 2015 for the fifth edition of Agahi, a national Parliamentary Debate Tournament. There was no mention of any dress code in their rules, and we were staying in the hostel rooms of the institution. During one of the breaks, when teams were having their refreshments, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, seeing one of my college mates in Bermuda shorts, T- shirt, and chappals, scolded him in front of everyone for dressing up so casually. And, since he was the Vice- Chancellor, nobody said anything against it. And here we were, debating about freedom, women’s rights, etc. during the course of the competition! Such irony!

Somya Sundriyal from Doon University, Dehradun:

It is really awful that even today wearing shorts can define girl’s character. What BCI thinks can be corrected but what that professor did was totally shameful. Dress code is not bad, what needs to be changed is the sick mentality, it’s that professor’s morals that need to be questioned.

Doon University, on the other hand, is very carefree and concentrates more on academics than physical outlook. We don’t have a dress code in our college except for the management department and no one gives it a thought as to what others are wearing.

Bhanvi Satija, YKA Campus Coordinator@LSR:

It’s sad and ironic at the same time for the Bar Council to issue such a notice to the law colleges. The recent incident is only one of many – a law student would know the amount of ‘dress code’ restrictions they have to deal with. In some law colleges, neither girls nor boys are allowed to wear anything less than full-covering pants on campus irrespective of the temperature outside! They are fined for wearing capris or shorts. While students are fighting for a more liberal environment, the larger institutions refuse to listen to their voices. Even though a dress code for formal days in college or for specific occasions is okay, making it compulsory is only a form of moral policing.

Kennedy Maling:

In my view, there is nothing wrong in dressing whichever way in colleges. My only concern is that those who can’t afford to wear fancy clothes like any others sometimes feel inferior, or some people look down on them. Other than that, there is no problem with anybody wearing shorts. So, if there is a particular dress code, then it would create equality for every one, no one would look down on anybody as everyone would look equal. But it would be better if it is followed by every institution of all over India.

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