Authorities in Malaysia’s conservative Terengganu state plan to ban non-Muslim women wearing mini-skirts or figure-hugging dresses to work as part of a drive against indecency, state officials said on Monday.
Muslim women will have to wear headscarves and loose dresses to office, they said, adding employers risked losing their business licences and face fines if the staff flouted the rules.
“The general policy is that non-Muslim women should dress decently,” said Hadi Awang, chief minister of the northeastern state and leader of the hardline Islamic party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS). General elections are due in Malaysia later this year, PAS is the main opposition party.
“The PAS government will not tolerate females, including those from different religions, wearing such clothes during working hours,” one state official said.
It wasn’t immediately known when the ban would come into force.
Women’s groups railed against the planned ban.
“It’s clearly an encroachment of the private space of women living in Terengganu,” said Cynthia Gabriel, a women’s rights advocate for the Kuala Lumpur-based Voice of Malaysia.
“It’s certainly a step backward,” she added.
PAS, the main threat to Malaysia’s multi-racial government coalition, recently unveiled plans for an orthodox Islamic state, including strict sharia laws.
It rules just two of the 13 states in multi-racial, multi-religious Malaysia.
But in the two states PAS runs, gambling is banned and so is dancing and public consumption of liquor by non-Muslims. Men and women are required to use separate checkouts at supermarkets.