Legal practitioners dress code withdrawn after outcry by female lawyers

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

THE Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has withdrawn its controversial dress code imposed on legal practitioners after female attorneys complained this barred them from wearing “tight fitting” outfits.

Under the new dress code, female legal practitioners were also barred from wearing “obtrusive” jewellery.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba had ordered that “jewellery that is extravagant or excessive should be avoided and eyebrow rings and nose rings are not permissible in court appearances.”.

“In this regard,” Malaba said then, “legal practitioners are required to ensure that their attire is appropriate and in accordance with this practice direction whenever they appear in the Magistrates’ Courts.”

For female counsel, Malaba had prescribed a dress code which “includes pants and skirt suits as well as full-sleeved dresses appropriate for formal business attire, when inner shirts, blouses or body tops are worn, these must be of acceptable colours”.

According to the new dress code, “blouses must be closed at the neck. Skirts must at least be knee length or not more than three centimeters above the knee”.

“Tight-fitting and body-hugging attire is not permissible and sling back shoes with closed fronts may be worn. Open toe or peep-toe shoes and sandals are not allowed,” he said then.

Male lawyers were ordered to wear suits coloured in black, navy blue or dark grey.

“These colours shall be solid or lightly striped, inner shirts must be white, navy blue or dark grey,” the head of the country’s judiciary had said.

“At all appearances except open court, male counsel shall wear neck ties and the ties must not contain destructing bright colours.”

However, on Friday, JSC secretary Walter Chikwanha said the order was published in error, and insisted that consultations are still underway with the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).

“Thursday JSC issued a memo Practice Directions 5 of 2020, Dress code for legal practitioners appearing in the Magistrates court, said the need to uphold decorum and protecting the dignity of all courts, counsel are expected to demonstrate good judgment and professional taste in their court attire.

“Please be advised that the Practice Direction was published in error.

“It is a draft which is still under consideration. We are aware that currently there are consultations with the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

“We will also be consulting with the Prosecutor General and the Attorney General.

“The Chief Justice has directed that the Practice Direction be withdrawn which we hereby do.”