KUALA LUMPUR • A reporter for Malaysia's Star newspaper said she was denied entry to the Defence Ministry because her outfit - a short-sleeved dress with a hemline just above her knees - was deemed to be inappropriate.
In a separate incident in Ipoh, a woman was not allowed to enter the City Council building unless she covered her arms.
The incidents are the latest in a series of cases in which women were asked to cover up at government offices and a hospital before being allowed entry.
Reporter Tashny Sukumaran said on Thursday that she had gone to the Defence Ministry to cover a presentation of Hari Raya goodies by the Prime Minister's wife.
"Despite what I thought to be decent attire, I was denied entry at the guardhouse. At the counter to register my vehicle, an official told me to step back several times... He then said I would not be allowed in because my knees were showing."
She told the official she had worn similar dresses before, as well as casual clothes such as t-shirts, while on assignment at the ministry. But another policeman said she had violated the dress code.
To avoid missing the event, she retrieved a long skirt that she kept in her car. "I later raised the issue with the deputy minister, who laughed it off. I couldn't help thinking, if people meant to defend the nation can become so distracted by a pair of kneecaps, then our country is in trouble," she said.
Meanwhile, Ms Eunice Chai, 32, a logistician, was stopped by security guards at the Ipoh City Council for wearing a sleeveless high-collar blouse and jeans. She was going to apply for a business licence when one of the guards on duty commented on her blouse.
"I was with a friend at the time, and thankfully he had a jacket in his car so he passed it to me at the entrance. I thought what I was wearing is considered decent since my legs are all covered up, but I didn't expect this treatment here as well," she said.
Ms Chai said it did not make sense to turn people away if they were appropriately dressed. "The local authorities should also respect other cultures," she added.
The poster for the dress code at the entrance of the council building showed men in a formal shirt with sleeves, or blazer and tie, and women in long formal dresses. It said those with sleeveless tank tops, shorts, short skirts and slippers would not be allowed in.
"The weather is very hot right now, and I don't think many Chinese would wear (formal dresses) when they go out," Ms Chai said.
The de facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri expressed dismay at the recent incidents.
"When I read about it, I asked myself, Is this true or not? Malaysia was not like that before," she said, describing the incidents as "ridiculous". She told reporters that as long as people were decently dressed, they should be allowed to wear whatever they wanted.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK