Bangladesh: High Court bars enforced Islamic dress code

BDS News & BBC

The High Court has ruled that no women can be forced to wear burqa at work and educational institutions. The bench of justices A H M Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Sheikh Mohammad Zakir Hossain also ruled that they cannot be barred from taking to culture and sports. The orders came in the wake of a public interest petition filed by Supreme Court lawyers Mahbub Shafi and A K M Hafizul Alam on Sunday. 

The court also ordered relevant officials to explain why forcing girls to wear burqa (veil) and keeping them out of sports and cultural activities were illegal. 

The education, home, social welfare, and women and children affairs secretaries and principal of Rani Bhabani Mohila College Mozammel Huq were asked to reply to ruling. Following a brief hearing, the court also asked the principal to appear before it on Aug 26. 

The lawyers in their petition on Sunday cited a report carried by a Bengali newspaper the same day headlined, 'Burqa mandatory at Rani Bhabani Mohila College'. The lawyers stated such enforcement was discriminatory. 

Dhaka, Aug 22 (

In April this year, the court ordered schools and colleges not to force women to wear the burqa, a garment that covers the entire body except the eyes and hands.

Mahbub Shafique, one of the lawyers who filed the latest litigation, told the BBC how this ruling goes a step further.

"The difference between these two is that, this particular ruling today doesn't apply only on females it also applies to males as well.

"Because any kind of religious attire is imposed, that has been declared illegal to some extent."

The repeated interventions by the court show that these orders are likely to be ignored by most people living outside the capital Dhaka.

Though Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation, most people practise a moderate version of Islam.

BBC News, Dhaka

By Anbarasan Ethirajan