Taiwan school adopts gender-neutral uniform policy

Students at Banqiao Senior High School near Taipei will be allowed to wear skirts or trousers, come end-August.
Students at Banqiao Senior High School near Taipei will be allowed to wear skirts or trousers, come end-August.PHOTO: PCSH.BQSA/FACEBOOK

TAIPEI • Male and female students will be allowed to wear skirts at a school in Taiwan after it announced plans to drop gender-specific uniforms yesterday, a move LGBTQ campaigners said was a boost for gender equality.

The change, a rare move in Asia where traditional values often prevail, came after male students and teachers at Banqiao Senior High School near Taipei donned skirts in May during a week-long campaign seeking to break down gender stereotypes.

The school's decision is seen as reinforcing the self-ruled island's reputation as a beacon of liberalism in Asia. It became the first place in the region to legalise same-sex marriage in May.

Under current guidelines, male students are required to wear trousers while skirts are mandatory for female students. The new dress code - to take effect in the new academic year from Aug 30 - will remove any mention of specific gender.

"It is to boost the students' autonomy in choosing their uniforms while respecting their rights," Banqiao Senior High School told Reuters in a statement.

The school, which is located in New Taipei City, just outside the capital, has more than 2,000 students aged between 16 and 18.

Taiwan's Education Ministry officials were quoted in local media as welcoming the school's decision. "This is a progressive step that embraces diversity," said Mr Du Sih-cheng, the policy advocacy director at the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, a non-profit that campaigns for LGBTQ rights.

"It will especially gives transgender teenagers the freedom to choose what they want to wear in schools," he said by phone from Taipei, urging more schools to follow suit.

STUDENTS' AUTONOMY

It is to boost the students' autonomy in choosing their uniforms while respecting their rights.

BANQIAO SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

A global campaign to push for gender-neutral school uniforms has gained traction in recent months.

Mexico City's mayor last month announced that students can decide whether to wear skirts or trousers to school, creating a controversy in the socially conservative predominantly Catholic country.

In Wales, the government said this month that it would no longer have separate uniform codes for boys and girls under a new policy due to come into force from Sept 1.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwan school adopts gender-neutral uniform policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe