International Asia Taiwan school to allow students to choose their own uniform, regardless of...

Taiwan school to allow students to choose their own uniform, regardless of gender — a first in Asia

The new dress code states that skirts or trousers, male or female — it will be students' choice.

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After becoming the first state in the region to legalise same-sex marriage in May, Taiwan continues to shake things up with gender-breaking stereotypes. Two months after a week-long experiment, the New Taipei Municipal Banqiao Senior High School in Taiwan has decided that beginning next school year, students will be allowed to choose their own school uniform. It means that male students, too, can wear the school-assigned skirt uniform if they so choose.

According to the Central News Agency (CNA), officials of the New Taipei Municipal Banqiao Senior High School said that this decision is not about encouraging boys to wear skirts, but about respecting the free will of their students.

In May of this year, male students and teachers at the New Taipei Municipal Banqiao Senior High School wore the school’s skirt uniforms during a week-long campaign that sought to break down gender stereotypes. The success of the campaign led to the decision to allow male students to wear skirts at school.

Current uniform rules dictate that male students are required to wear trousers and female students must wear skirts, but the new dress code, which is slated to come into effect on August 30, will remove gender specifications and allow students to choose their own uniforms. Skirts or trousers, male or female — it will be their own choice.

This news is sending ripples all over Asia, where strict, traditional values still rule.

“It is to boost the students’ autonomy in choosing their uniforms while respecting their rights,” the New Taipei Municipal Banqiao Senior High School said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Taiwan education ministry officials and LGBT+ rights advocates back the decision, calling it “progressive”.

While male, female and transgender students alike will certainly benefit from being able to choose their own uniforms and feel more comfortable, they will still have to comply with the school’s uniform rules — trousers and skirts must be dark blue or black, and skirts must be no higher than 10 centimetres above the knee, according to CNA.

A school official reported that during June’s discussions of the new uniform’s measures, the topic of skirt length provoked more heated conversation and debate than the actual decision of allowing boys and girls to wear trousers or skirts.

It is yet to be seen whether the New Taipei Municipal Banqiao Senior High School will be a catalyst for the rest of Taiwan to follow suit when it comes to gender-neutral uniforms.

Meanwhile, outside of Asia, the campaign for allowing students to choose their own uniforms, regardless of gender, has been making notable progress.

The Welsh government announced this month that Wales would no longer have separate uniform guidelines for boys and girls. This new policy is set to take effect from September 1 of this year.

Last month, in Mexico City, the mayor announced that students have free will over the decision to wear trousers or skirts to school, a controversial move in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Taiwan continues to push boundaries and gender stereotypes, with plans to introduce a non-binary option for official document in the works. The first third-gender ID cards are reportedly set to be launched in 2020. /TISG

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