UKM bans saree & cheongsam in convocation dress code, reinstates it after social media backlash

Over the weekend, one of Malaysia’s top universities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was under fire over its dress code guidelines for an upcoming convocation ceremony. The information appertains to both graduands and visitors who will be attending the ceremony. However, many netizens noticed something amiss in the poster as it also restricted visitors from wearing the saree or cheongsam, which are the traditional attire of the Indian and Chinese communities.

UKM faces backlash over dress code restrictions

Source: Twitter

In the poster, multiple examples of banned clothing were shown, including jeans, short pants, T-shirt and other forms of casual wear. However, netizens were enraged to see the Indian and Chinese traditional attire in the restricted section as well. Two women one sporting a red cheongsam while another in a saree was displayed clearly on the far right side of the poster.

This has led netizens to assume that UKM banned their visitors and graduands from wearing their cultural clothing, which offended the notion of multiculturalism in the country.

Due to the outcry over social media, the official UKM Konvo website later retracted the dress code guidelines and stated that they will revise the restrictions.

Dress code advisory revised, and now allows ‘national attire’

Just hours ago, UKM then issued a revised dress code guideline that now allows graduands and visitors to wear baju kebangsaaan (national attire). However, the statement did not specify what kind of traditional attire is allowed, only declaring that all items of clothing must be dark-coloured, fully sleeved and extend to one’s ankle.

With the revised guideline, visitors who wish to wear their national attire to the convocation will also be required to adhere to the regulation. Therefore, any sarees or cheongsams worn must cover up the wearer’s arms and extend to their ankles.

Moreover, visitors and graduands can choose the alternative of wearing lounge suits or long-sleeved tops with sleeved with formal pants or a long skirt (for women). They also must attend the event in formal shoes.

Many criticized UKM for discrimination while others defend it

The uproar was caused when a Twitter user questioned UKM for banning these traditional attires. Many others then poured in their criticism as they assumed the university’s action to be discriminatory towards the nation’s racial minorities.

Source: Twitter

Despite the multiple accusations and criticism on social media, some netizens have stepped forward to defend UKM in this case.

“We have the most students from racial minorities. There is also sleeveless baju kebaya, and they are too not allowed. Saree has been worn before too. Some people are just ignorant and arrogant. Don’t fall for their narratives.”

Source: Twitter

They claimed that UKM was never discriminative against racial minorities and that the school also boasts diversity among their students.

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Also read: Kind UKM lecturer crowdfunds financial aid for her student so she could buy a laptop and complete her final thesis

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