Recently, one of the country's leading multiplex movie theatres did not sell tickets to an old man because he was wearing a lungi. A teenage boy was arrested in Narail because he was wearing shorts. In May, a young woman was assaulted at Narsingdi Railway Station for wearing an 'indecent outfit'.
A free society cannot dictate how a person will choose to dress. On that basis, it seems Bangladesh is doing everything it can to suppress people's liberty of wearing what they want. In the name of protecting decency or so called cultural values, we are causing mayhem.
The connection between dress codes and decency or manner has less existence in reality and more in our imagination. This enticing belief has no logic to back it up.
Manners refer to the way people speak, how they respect others from different backgrounds and identities and their behaviour in a collective work environment.
The fabric or length of a dress does not imply whether a person is decent or indecent. Rather, staring at someone because of their clothes is an example of indecent behaviour.
Another popular narrative to stand with the dress code standard is to protect the so-called 'standard of the place'.
Even a Harvard professor can come to the class wearing a cropped top or a pair of shorts but in our country, a university professor will not be allowed to even enter the campus in these clothes.
Interestingly, our best universities are not even within the top 2,000 in QS ranking while Harvard always remains at the top of the list. This goes to say how little clothing has to do with performance or standard of education.
Nonetheless, in the metric of sexual abuse and bullying on campus, Dhaka city will stand head and shoulders above Massachusetts. Then what is the point of creating a certain standard if it does not bring about any pragmatic or behavioural impact?
Setting these standards has a historical and psychological background. 200 years of colonial oppression left our country idolising the cultural standards left behind by British rulers. Any country that goes under long-term colonialism considers the dress code of imperial power as 'civilised' or 'gentlemanly'.
Accordingly, independent Bangladesh's social perception still looms around idolising shirts tucked in pants as the ultimate 'decent' wear and disregarding lungi, something which has been in our culture forever.
Being an economically poor and educationally backward country, the psychological progression of our people was mostly based on insecurity and scepticism.
We have created a standard to make ourselves feel better - the standard of appearances. Any person who does not fit into that is considered indecent.
In general, people make an effort to fit into the standard. If someone does not care to give that effort, rather pursues any choice of their own or follow comfort, they react to it with rage combined with dormant jealousy - why does not s/he make the effort while I am doing it?
People find solace in discriminating and harassing people for their outfits and it mostly stems from personal hatred. They usually have no underlying intentions to build a so-called 'civilised' society.
Another dominant factor that propelled the practice is religious sentiments. Since ours is a Muslim majority country, whether people practice Islam properly or not, they do not spare a single opportunity to capitalise on Islam to dictate a broader range of lifestyles.
People have become so sensitive that they have forgotten that Islam never allows harassing someone based on their appearance. This explains why the majority of people making comments in social media posts about the Narsingdi Rail Station incident justified and celebrated the harassment.
Our educational institutions also do not teach students to respect people irrespective of their clothes. Rather we teach our children how to dress so others call them 'decent' and 'well mannered'.
The practice of respecting someone else's choice will require us to break out of our psychological and knowledge barriers. But we must learn how futile it is to judge someone based on their appearance before it creates more victims.
Tanvir Hasan is a student, debater and writer.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.