IN August 2018, after outcry from women islandwide, the Government reviewed the long-standing practice of prohibiting the wearing of sleeveless attire into government buildings, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness formally giving instructions for the suspension of the no-sleeveless policy and instructing a full review of government dress code practices.
Holness said that while the practice existed to prohibit persons who would wear sleeveless from entering government buildings through dress codes established within particular ministries, departments and agencies, there was no law or official government policy on which these were based. Holness instructed the Cabinet secretary to write to ministries, departments and agencies to make them aware that they were not to deny access or services to persons, based on their sleeveless attire, as this was not the policy of the Government.
But three years later, the rule still persists in numerous places, in defiance of the Government's directive. And the no-sleeveless policy, strictly enforced by security guards and other agents at various organisations that people seek to do business, is but one if the most sexist rules that women encounter locally, as they share.
I went to the Registrar General's Department (RGD) to collect my marriage certificate and the security guard informed me that the capped sleeves I was wearing wasn't allowed. I had to purchase a T-shirt from a vendor outside to throw over my dress. I had to laugh though, because you want to know the irony? I had gotten married right there at RGD a few weeks before, in a sleeveless wedding dress with a plunging neckline, with no issues.
I took my baby to Bustamante one evening as she had shortness of breath. I literally just ran from the house because it was an emergency. Security told me I couldn't enter because I was wearing knee-length shorts, and told me to let her dad take her, as he was more appropriately dressed. It was only after my baby's father laced him with some choice badwords that he let us in.
Two years ago I had my third child, and wanted a permanent method of birth control. I was booked to have my C-section in hospital, and was filling out the forms to have the tubal ligation procedure done right after the C-section, when I was told that my husband had to consent for me to get it, by signing the form. I told them that my husband neither owned nor controlled my body, but they wouldn't relent — I couldn't tie my tubes without his permission. Treating women as chattel is still a thing in the 21st century!
I was an elder at my former church, and was on the road to becoming pastor as the old pastor was retiring. Now I am not thin, and I'm quite buxom and have hips, so whatever I wear, my curves are visible. When we were meeting to decide the future of the church leadership, the men made it known that I had to change my wardrobe, as too much was “printing out”. After challenging them, they basically said unless I wore looser dresses and skirts the congregation wouldn't take me seriously. I have left that church, and started my own, where the female members can wear whatever they want.
I worked in an all-girls' school a few years ago. When I got pregnant the board informed me that I couldn't continue teaching there as my “moral indiscretions” would confuse the girls about whether having children out of wedlock was acceptable. Mind you, the father was my fiancÚ, and a fellow educator at the same school, and there was never any discussion about him losing his post. We had to move up our wedding date and get married sooner, so I could keep my job.