Sharjah: A marked rise in women sporting liberal wear in Sharjah is falling on the wrong side of prevailing community standards, residents say.
In spite of the increase, no women were fined last year for dressing incompatibly with “decency rules” in Sharjah, a senior police official said.
Some long-time residents of Sharjah complain about several instances of women wearing too little in malls and other public places. Gulf News visited different areas of Sharjah and found this to be true..
The police official, who requested anonymity, explained: “There are no records of fines for such cases; they are not breaking the law as such. What we do is create awareness through brochures and through the efforts of female police staff, who occasionally approach women visitors and residents of Sharjah to inform them about social values.”
Sharjah’s decency guidelines, in place since 2001, cover a variety of public behaviour guidelines, including how women — and men — should dress in public.
The guidelines advise women against wearing clothing that exposes the stomach and back; short clothing above the knee; tight and transparent clothing that highlights body shape.
Men are urged to refrain from wearing very short pants in public or commercial places like malls and public offices. They are also advised against ‘chest nudity’ or display the ‘ezar’ in public. An ezar is a long waist-wrapper worn under traditional Emirati male garments and is also often used by mainly South Asian expatriates as regular day wear in public.
Malls, tourist spots and beachside resorts are places where the dress code is violated. Although swimsuits are allowed on some beaches, many tourists make the short trip between the beach and hotel wearing just towels over bathing costumes. An example of this is the stretch of hotels on Al Meena Street in Al Khan area in Sharjah, popular with tourists.
Though officials have raised awareness in the past, residents say it is becoming commonplace to see women dressed inappropriately.
During a 2008 awareness drive by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), these guidelines were stipulated in handouts in several languages for distribution among tourists and residents.
No immediate comment from the SCTDA or other officials was available through requests to the Sharjah Media Centre, which often coordinates between press queries and government departments.
One media centre official advised queries be routed to police, who had no further comments.
A mall manager did not wish to speak on the issue, only saying there was a “courtesy policy” in place in Sharjah and Dubai malls that outlined what was acceptable dressing.
He referred to posters and signs in malls that prohibit revealing clothing and public displays of affection.
A controversial Twitter and social media campaign last year called for a federal law to enforce decency rules, but lawyers told Gulf News that no such measure is in place.
Sharjah Dress Code
What is indecent for men
Very short pants in public or commercial places like malls and public offices
Ezar in public places (Ezar is the local Emirati male underwear)
What is indecent for women
Clothing that exposes the stomach and back
Short clothing above the knee
Tight and transparent clothing that describes the body
Rules at public beaches
All swimmers should wear conservative swimwear that is acceptable to the culture in Sharjah
Do not wear swimwear in streets or other public places
It is not allowed for a man and woman who are not connected by a legally acceptable relationship to be alone in public places or in suspicious times or circumstances.
Sharjah Police, designated employees, security officers, and building guards are ordered to observe, coordinate and ensure adherence to these rules of decency and public conduct.
Police only enforce these whenever a warning is not sufficient.
Public employees are to provide instructions, advice and clarification to the violator, keeping goodwill as the basis in the interaction. In case of negative response, the police may be called in.
When violators of this code seek service, it may be refused and they should be made aware of the regulations.
Source: Sharjah decency and public conduct rules and objectives official brochure