Turkey lifts ban on trousers for female MPs in Parliament

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's Parliament has lifted a ban on female lawmakers wearing trousers in the assembly, in a further liberalisation of dress rules following a landmark decision to allow female deputies to wear the Islamic headscarf.

A deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Ms Safak Pavey, drew attention to the trouser ban during a parliamentary debate on the emotive headscarf issue, which has long polarised opinion in largely Muslim but secular Turkey.

Ms Pavey, elected to office in June 2011, has a prosthetic leg but Parliament had rejected her previous request to be allowed to wear trousers because of regulations that specified that women should wear suits with skirts.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling centre-right AK Party, which has Islamist roots, proposed the relaxation of the trouser ban and the opposition parties - the secularist CHP, the pro-Kurdish BDP and Turkish nationalist MHP - backed the plan.

Parliament approved the measure late on Wednesday.

The Turkish Parliament witnessed historic scenes at the end of October when four AKP female lawmakers wore headscarves for the first time in the assembly.

The headscarf is viewed by secularists as an emblem of political Islam and thus a threat to the republic's secular identity, but the AK Party has argued that the restrictions on its use violate the principle of religious freedom.

Secularists made only subdued protests to the move, highlighting a shift in attitudes in Turkey about religion after more than a decade of AKP rule. The headscarf ban has also been lifted in other state institutions as well as parliament.