Whether it’s the Burqa ban in Europe or female students in Sri Lankan universities being banned from wearing three quarter pants or skirts, it’s plain to see that women are still being deprived of the freedom to dress as they choose.
The restriction on the local students however, has been around for much longer. The ban has been informally but rigidly imposed by some of the male students and it has now become an unwritten rule as it isn’t beyond the official university dress code.
If a female student defies the rule, the consequences can be traumatic according to *Nilukshi—a student at the University of Kelaniya. While some girls have been egged for not abiding by the dress code, Nilukshi belongs to the category of students that have been verbally abused and humiliated in public. “I was in my first year at the time and the skirt I wore was 5 inches below my knee," recalls Nilukshi. “I was ragged for 4 hours straight. I was taken toseveral groups of boys who scolded me in foul language."
Though Nilukshi’s skirt was several inches below the knee, male students accused her of being dressed like a sex-worker. Another girl who was with Nilukshi at the time was told to lift her skirt up. During her second and third year, Nilukshi returned to wearing three quarter length skirts, withstanding the demeaning remarks she would receive from male students.
Vindiya from the University of Sri Jayawaradanapura, has had a similar experience. During the first year, unaware of the rule, she wore ¾ pants and was basted verbally for having dressed ‘inappropriately’. Having submissively given into the unwritten rule, the next time she wore ¾ pants was to the library on Independence Day—a public holiday. She was told off by two male students who were her juniors. On the third occasion Vindiya had popped into the University to drop off a gift for a friend. Vindiya also recalls that one of her friends who isn’t attached to the University of Sri Jayawaradanapura was egged when came by to collect some information.
The student-imposed rule is found in all the local universities though the consequences of not
complying with the rule vary. The rule is widely seen as a form of gender discrimination as well as oppression.