Gabon bans cleavage display by civil servants

LIBREVILLE Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:41pm BST

A model displays a creation during Cape Town Fashion Week in South Africa August 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A model displays a creation during Cape Town Fashion Week in South Africa August 9, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon has banned displays of cleavage in the civil service and told male workers to smarten up their act as part of moves by the central African state to reform its dysfunctional public administration.

A new dress code will require female civil servants to don either a full-length dress, a traditional African robe, trouser suit or "a plain skirt, high-necked blouse and shoes for town," a cabinet edict issued late Thursday stated.

Men must wear either a suit, jacket or smart traditional African attire such as the ceremonial "bou bou" robe. A tie will remain optional.

The ruling follows an outburst in January by the archbishop of the capital Libreville, Basile Engone, who accused authorities of "turning a blind eye to deviant behaviour such as the wearing of skimpy outfits in the public administration."

Participants in subsequent televised debates complained of a widespread workplace culture which encouraged women to dress for promotion, while male civil servants argued they were not paid enough to dress well.

Under late ruler Omar Bongo, the public payroll of the oil nation of 1.5 million people saw its headcount swell to 55,000 through a system of cronyism and fraud, in which salaries were often paid for non-existent positions.

Bongo's son Ali ordered a census of the civil service in a bid to cut down its 336 billion CFA ($688 million) annual wage bill after coming to power in last August's election.

(Reporting by Phal Gualbert Mezui; writing by Mark John; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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