x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dress code supporters split as Twitter debate heats up

The UAE Dresscode Campaign has come under criticism after one of its organisers tweeted comments claiming a link between revealing clothing and sexual attacks.

A Twitter campaign encouraging expatriates and tourists to dress more conservatively has become more heated, some supporters say.

The UAE Dresscode Campaign, started last month by two Emirati women, has been criticised after one of its organisers tweeted comments claiming a link between revealing clothing and sexual attacks.

"By saying women are to blame because of what they wear is crossing the line," said one Dubai resident who asked not to be identified.

She said she supported the campaign to raise awareness of cultural sensitivities but it was being tainted by "insults".

Asma Al Muhairi, 23, a co-founder of the campaign, said she regretted the tweet but believed "nudity triggers sexual behaviour".

"A guy might not rape a woman who is dressed like that but it will make him sexually charged and he might rape another," said Ms Al Muhairi.

She admitted some of the campaign's tweets had become "a bit aggressive", particularly those from Emirati supporters, but they were the result of "finally finding an opportunity" to put their point across.

One tweet said: "What do people want Emiratis and Muslims to do? Smile while people wear swimwear in public?"

Ms Al Muhairi said: "We don't want to be insulting but we need to protect our culture and create more awareness."

The subject of how people should dress has become a topic of heated debate since the #UAEDressCode campaign began last month.

On Tuesday, the FNC agreed to recommend a federal law to the Cabinet, which if passed would enforce a dress code in public places.

This is what the Twitter campaign was hoping to achieve from the start, Ms Al Muhairi said, adding it was not meant as "a threat or to offend people".

"It's to regulate decency in public places where there are families," she said. "The malls have dress codes so the law will help reinforce it."

Bianca, a Brazilian expatriate who has lived in the UAE for 10 years, said she supported decency in public but the problem was "where to draw the line".

"It is a very sensitive subject," Bianca said. "There are so many different kinds of clothes out there. How will they decide who can wear what?"

The Lebanese resident Jamil Abu Wardeh said a law would be "ridiculous in a country that is trying to promote tourism".

"Making a federal dress-code law is extreme and this is not an extremist country," said Mr Abu Wardeh.

molson@thenational.ae