01/24/2011, 00.00
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Chechen president backs dress code proposed by Moscow Patriarchate

by Nina Achmatova
The Russian Orthodox Church floats the idea of a national dress code against sleazy women, and gains only one supporter: Chechen President Kadyrov. Public opinion criticises the Church for interfering in people’s private life.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Controversy still rages in Russia following a statement by Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, who called on Russian women to dress more modestly to avoid becoming victims of sexual violence. Online and in print, comments and condemnations have multiplied against the so-called “Orthodox dress code”. Editorial writers and public opinion have slammed the Moscow Patriarchate for interfering in people’s private lives, with many people noting that Russia is a secular state.

Controversial Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a Muslim, raised even more eyebrows by publicly endorsing the Orthodox clergyman’s appeal, something unhelpful for the Orthodox Church’s crusade in favour of a “dignified dress”. In Chechnya, Kadyrov set up a “morality police” that stops women not dressed according to Muslim rules. Local witnesses said police punish unveiled women by throwing paint at them.

Appeal for a national dress code

According to Chaplin, Russian women dress like strippers, wear makeup like clowns, and sometimes show an attitude that is so enticing that it can lead to sexual violence. By describing women’s clothing as “too uninhibited”, the representative of the Patriarchate said he hoped for the introduction of a national dress code in schools, public buildings and companies.

“Some people confuse the street for a strip club,” the clergyman said. “A woman who is underdressed or made up like a clown will not find a man to share her life, a man with an ounce of intelligence and self-respect,” he added.

Human rights organisations reacted immediately to the statement. In a letter against Chaplin’s remarks signed by 700 people and addressed to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, Liudmilla Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow chapter of the Helsinki group, described the clergyman’s words as a breach of people’s right to privacy, which is banned by the federal constitution.

The issue went viral on websites and blogs with people asking whether the Scriptures include a dress code or wondering if Russia would become as rigid and intransigent as Muslim countries in matters that touch the private sphere.

“An appeal to be modest and wear a dignified dress is not an attempt to infringe upon women’s rights,” said President Kadyrov, who also criticised Russian television for showing “naked women everywhere” in lieu of “concerts of folk music”.

“Once upon a time, the world admired Russian culture for people like Tolstoy; now we have opened the doors to a soulless Western lifestyle,” he added.

Women’s dress is not the only issue recently raised by the Orthodox Church. Last week, proposals were presented in parliament to exclude abortion from insurance coverage and increase the cost and red tape for women seeking an abortion.

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