off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Revealing dress by working
women is asking for trouble

Dr. Unaiza Niaz is an eminent psychiatrist who has done commendable work for Women Mental Health and keeps on highlighting these issues within the country as well as at the international forums. She also enjoys an important position in Chapter on Women Mental Health in the World Psychiatric Association. She was one of the invited guest speakers at the recently held International conference on “Prescription for Wellness” at Lahore and during her presentation she made some very important remarks which deserve to be given a serious thought by healthcare professionals in general and the working women in particular.

Speaking about the dress code of healthcare professionals, she laid emphasis on Decent, Respectable, Modest and Professional dress. Revealing dress by the working women, she opined, is asking for trouble. They must avoid long neck, sleeveless shirts and make sure that they are dressed properly which also does not hinder in their work.

These issues have become much more important these days particularly with the rapid increase in women in medicine. Now almost 70% of new admissions to medical and dental colleges are of girls and it is heartening to note that they are also doing extremely well professionally. We have also seen increased presence of women physicians in faculty as well as in administrative positions. Hence it is all the more important that these young girl students should be guided properly. Educational institutions do provide education but the real training and moral values are taught at home where the parents are and they should be held responsible. It is the training and the way they are groomed and brought up which matters a lot.

While it is praiseworthy that a female psychiatrist like Dr. Unaiza Niaz had highlighted these issues but similar issues are also discussed and talked about by other well meaning, kind hearted, God fearing male physicians as well. Once a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery told me that among the new House Officers they received, some girls used to dress up very inappropriately. I tried to tell them in between the lines to dress up properly when they come to the hospital as they are just like our own children but when they did not listen, he had to unwillingly ask them to leave the ward. In yet another incident, young Registrar working in a tertiary cardiac care facility when asked to examine a patient at night, the patient was frightened to see the doctor with long hairs and she started crying. In the process, she fell down from the bed and they complained to the administration next morning. An enquiry was ordered which showed that it was the appearance of the doctor which frightened the patient who refused to be examined by that particular doctor. Similarly while examining a patient, female doctors have to be very cautious and instances are not wanting when some of these doctors received marriage proposals from the patients. Doctors in general and female doctors in particular should be extremely careful while making friends. Not too long ago an invitation through social media by a doctor to a patient became an issue which was highlighted by the media and on the complaint of the patient alleging harassment, the doctor was fired by the hospital.

The problem is not only with the female doctors. Male doctors also need to be reminded to adhere to proper professional dress code. It is not surprising to see some young doctors in the medical institutions, healthcare facilities, wearing joggers, jeans, shirts, with long hairs. At first sight, it is difficult to find out whether they are doctors or paramedics, technicians or even patient’s attendants. In the good old days, doctors whether male or female always used to wear white coat over the dress whatever they were wearing and these problems never arose. It is still practiced by some healthcare facilities. However, with the overall deterioration of moral values in the society, the new generation of healthcare professionals in particular has also been infected with all these viruses. The situation is worse at private medical, dental colleges and medical universities. Since the students pay heavy fees, the administration is reluctant to take any disciplinary action against such students. Now we see increasing cases of sexual harassment at work place which are reported. For the women healthcare professionals it is not only their professional colleagues but the patients as well who are also reported to be involved in sexual harassment and physical violence. Personal grooming and etiquette is a pre requisite to be a public service professional. If we have dress code in private clubs and many other places, why cannot we have a dress code in schools, colleges and universities as well? In the past, we used to have a dress code in schools in particular wherein every students was supposed to wear a particular dress. It is extremely important that all professionals which includes doctors, lawyers, and teachers must follow a decent, respectable and societally accepted dress code. It will go a long way in curtailing and eventually eliminating the chances of any type of harassment and violence to a great extent. However, when one goes to weddings and at family functions, one may wear the dress of his/her choice but even at such places, decency, respectability needs to be ensured.

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