07/07/2009 11:32 PM
Sharjah: The rules of decency and public conduct remain vague for shopkeepers in the emirate.
The Decency Rule was launched in September 2001 and "expresses society's conscious need to stand against indecency, and to preserve public civility, and to clarify the proper concept of personal freedom of safeguarding other's rights".
However, shopkeepers said that they are still poorly informed about the rules and are not kept updated about what is considered as a violation of the decency rule.
A supermarket was recently fined Dh500 by the municipality for displaying Al Nisr Media's popular Aquarius magazine in their shop window, which had a front cover of a bikini-clad model. The municipality then confiscated all the issues of the magazine.
"We do not have a problem with the content of such magazines if they have already been approved by the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah. But when they are being sold, vendors should abide by the Decency Rule. They should know that they cannot flaunt them in their shop windows, but should instead keep them stacked in the shop, or placed behind other magazines," an official at the Market Control Section at Sharjah Municipality said.
While the municipality assumes that shopkeepers are aware of the rules when it comes to selling magazines, others have said they did not know that such rules existed.
"I have my newsstand placed outside on the street and sell all kinds of magazines, like for sports and for women's fashion. Inspectors have passed by my shop on a few occasions, but they never told me what they were inspecting. So far I have never been given a fine," Bashir, who works at a shop in Al Majaz, said
As part of the Decency Rule, the municipality in February 2008 issued a circular to shopkeepers stating that shops are prohibited from displaying mannequins with facial features. The circular also emphasised that the heads of mannequins should either be removed or covered up, and that they are forbidden to display underwear.
"I have covered up all the heads of the mannequins on the window display that face the street, but I did not do that to the mannequins inside the shop. I am not sure if I am following the rules correctly, but so far I did not receive any fines or complaints from anyone," Mohammad, who owns a textile shop in Al Shuwaiheen area, said.
The Decency Rule also explains what is considered as indecent with regard to women's and men's dress. A woman's clothing is regarded as indecent if exposes the stomach and back. Clothing above the knee, in addition to tight and transparent clothing is also considered indecent.
A senior official at Sharjah Police said, "Women caught dressed immodestly will not be arrested, but will be told to go home and change."
Men's dress is considered indecent if they wear short pants in public, or if they bare their chests or wear the wezar (local male underwear) in public places.
"There needs to be more awareness on television and brochures should be handed out in airports so that expatriates are aware about our rules. They should not see it as a limitation on their freedom, and they should understand that this is a religious country," Engineer Khawla Al Noaman, member of the Sharjah Consultative Council, said.