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Skimpy clothing targeted in Gulf cover-up campaigns

By Schams Elwazer, CNN
updated 8:08 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
The campaign urges expats in Qatar to wear modest clothing in public.
The campaign urges expats in Qatar to wear modest clothing in public.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Social media and poster campaign in Qatar urges expats to wear modest attire in public
  • Brochures distributed by "Reflect Your Respect" says everything from shoulders to knees should be covered
  • Shorts for men are seen as fine, but women must avoid skirts, the campaign says
  • In Kuwait, lawmakers have reportedly set their sights on outlawing the bikini

(CNN) -- The flashing of flesh in several Gulf states may just have got a little harder after efforts were launched to ban bikinis and get visitors to cover up.

In Qatar, a campaign using posters and social media is encouraging expats to wear modest clothing in public, while in Kuwait, lawmakers have reportedly called for some swimwear to be outlawed.

Brochures distributed by the "Reflect Your Respect" campaign tell expats: "If you're in Qatar you're one of us. Help us preserve Qatar's culture and values, please dress modestly in public places by covering from shoulders to knees."

Posters identify as inappropriate sleeveless dresses, exposed midriffs, tank tops on men and women and skirts or shorts above the knee.

MORE: 'Bikini ban' slated for Spanish island

Women are notified that "leggings are not pants."

The campaign has taken to Twitter and Instagram to drive home its message and also reportedly intends to dispatch female volunteers to hand out leaflets in public.

The campaign's organizers were not immediately available for comment.

Breach of morality

Clothing advice is nothing new in Qatar.

Its tourism authority advises on its website that "men and women should dress modestly as a courtesy to both Qataris and Muslims... Tops should cover the shoulders and upper arms, and skirts or shorts should fall to or below the knee."

The new campaign points out that anyone residing or visiting the country is subjected to Qatari laws that are widely considered to prohibit immodest attire as a breach of morality.

Most Qataris dress conservatively according to Islamic custom.

Women wear flowing black robes called abayas while men wear white robes called thawbs.

However, Qataris account for a small proportion of the population -- approximately 85% of the country's two million residents are expats.

Attempts to implement a strict dress code could impact on visitors as Qatar gears up to host the 2022 World Cup.

MORE: 10 outrageous spas in the Middle East

Cover-up campaign: Reflect your Respect
Cover-up campaign: Reflect your Respect

Reaction on social media was mixed.

"Appreciate the dress code campaign by @reflect_respect as being done respectfully and tastefully and for both genders," said a tweet by Fadi El Hage

"Respect is through actions not what you wear," tweeted Sindhu Nair.

Bathers targeted

Motte Christian's reaction was more tongue-in-cheek, tweeting "I'm looking forward to see footballer wearing pants during football world cup 2022."

All the Gulf countries, which are socially conservative and have large expatriate populations, advise foreigners to dress modestly although it is rarely enshrined in law.

Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that requires women to wear abayas and cover their hair in public.

Last year the United Arab Emirates witnessed a similar social media campaign to encourage visitors to dress modestly.

Meanwhile, in Kuwait, officials are reportedly seeking to target bathers.

A committee dealing with "tackling bad social behavior" has approved a proposal to ban "nudity" of women at all swimming pools, public places and in hotels, according to the English-language Kuwait Times.

Hamdan Al-Azemi, an Islamist lawmaker who heads the committee, did not specify what was meant by "nudity" but the newspaper reports that the term includes wearing bikinis and "revealing or improper dress."

The proposal needs to be approved by parliament and ratified by the Kuwaiti government before being enshrined into law.

Are these shorts too short? Foreigners told to cover up in UAE

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