Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Police rules on officers’ hair length unlawful: activists

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

An anonymous police officer, second right, is joined by members of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights at a press conference in Taipei yesterday as he recounts being forced by his superiors to cut his hair short.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

A police officer and rights activists yesterday protested against a set of police regulations stipulating the length at which male and female officers should wear their hair as unlawful and a human rights violation.

“I like to keep my hair long because I identify with the [traditional] female image. However, since I started working as a police officer, my supervisor has repeatedly asked me to cut my hair short, in accordance with the regulations,” a male officer who wished to be known as “L” told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

“My supervisor said I should not make myself look like a woman and would not allow me to carry a gun on job because he questioned my mental stability,” L said.

L added that his refusal to cut his hair also affected his job performance evaluation.

Having resisted the chop by filing complaints and appeals, L eventually caved in to the enormous pressure he was under and cut his hair. However, he said he felt his rights had been compromised.

“I don’t understand what the connection between the length of my hair and my capability of fulfilling my duties as a police officer is,” he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) panned the regulations at the press conference.

“The regulations determining hair length based on gender are a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, which have been adopted by the Legislative Yuan,” she said. “The rules also contravene the Gender Equality in Employment Act (性別工作平等法), which prohibits discrimination of employees based on sex and gender orientation.”

Awakening Foundation secretary-general Lin Shih-fang (林實芳), agreed with Yu, saying that while there is a law requiring officers to wear a uniform on the job, “there’s no law stipulating what length their hair should be.”

National Police Agency representative Yang Tsung-hsi (楊宗熙) said the agency would look into whether the rules should be amended, but defended them as necessary.

“Police officers represent the state’s authority when on duty, hence their appearance should meet the public’s expectations, so that people trust them more,” Yang said. “For example, male officers conduct a body search on a man and female officers on a woman, but if an officer has long hair, people could be confused about their gender.”

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