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The Legal Issue of Wearing Pants

Parisian women may now wear pants!

This week marked a momentous event for Parisian women- it is no longer illegal for them to wear pants.  In 1799, the law was passed and stated that, “Any woman wishing to wear pants must seek special permission from the police.”  During the French Revolution, wearing pants became a symbol of rising up of the working class against the Bourgeoisie   By banning women from wearing pants, the law was not only limiting the rights of women, it was a way to ‘keep them in their place’ during the revolution.  The law was updated in 1892 and 1909 to make exceptions for a more feminine shape of pants, the ‘pantaloon’ if a woman where to find herself on a bike or a horse.

In 1946, men and women on France were given equal rights, but this law remained on the books. Legislators felt it wasn’t worth the time to take this law off the books, but opponents of the law felt that it did not support men and women’s equality.  Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights, argued that the law was,  “incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men that are written into the Constitution and in France’s European commitments.”

Parisian women may now wear pants!  This seems like a joke, but there are still places in the world where women may not dress as they please and it is taken much more seriously.  In January 2012, women in Mali were attacked in the street for the ‘wrong type of dress.’  Fortunately, these women received support from their president.  In Sudan, it is still illegal for women to wear pants and the penalty if often a fine, a beating or both.

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