Thailand Lifts Dress Code Restriction for Female Lawyers

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Thai Female Lawyer Permitted To Wear Trousers After Two Year Battle
A panel of judges sit in the Supreme court in Bangkok, wearing traditional heavy back robes. New legislation could move away from these centuries-old gendered dress codes. ( Photo : stringer )

In a significant move toward gender equality, female lawyers in Thailand can now wear trousers to court as of 24 March. This marks a departure from the previous dress code restrictions that prohibited female lawyers from wearing trousers, even when wearing the traditional long black robe.

According to an in-depth feature in the South East Asia Globe, although the dress code has been relaxed, female lawyers are still expected to adhere to neutral-colored skirts or trousers, and a white collared shirt.

The Bar Association of Thailand amended its code on Friday and hopes that the changes will be published in the Royal Thai Government Gazette at the end of the month.

While this is a major achievement, Nadthasiri Bergman, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Lawyer Association (HRLA), points out in an interview with Southeast Asia Globe that this is just the first step toward greater equality.

She notes that the ultimate goal is to remove any gender-based regulations from the ethical code and address lawyers by their title without differentiating them according to their biological sex.

“What if I want to wear a red pair of pants? And what about the British colonial heritage of wearing court robes? Could men wear skirts?” Nadthasiri asked.

“This achievement is just one tiny step towards equality, but we are not quite there yet,” she added.

The fight to change the dress code went on for over two years, but now the Human Rights Lawyers Association, members of the Thai Bar Association, and activists can have a sense of achievement as they set the wheels of change into motion.

Thai PBS World reports that while petitioning for change activists insisted that, “the dress code for female lawyers is irrelevant in today’s social context and that wearing polite attire, which is internationally acceptable, should suffice.”

Arbitrator and partner at ABER Law Group, Dutsadee Dutsadeepanich, said, “We have the right to choose. That’s always been our fundamental human right. Our voice is louder now. Things will continue to change for the better.”