THE “HIJAB LADY” SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED TO THE BAR

THE “HIJAB LADY” SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED TO THE BAR

By Kenneth Ikonne

A young Nigerian female law graduate was recently denied admission to the Nigerian Bar because she allegedly wore a hijab to the event. I have just seen a photograph of the the lady on the day in question. I saw no hijab, but only a black headscarf on top of which she wore the regulation wig. She was also wearing a dark female suit underneath the regulation gown, with other formal accessories in tow. The apparently “offensive” vestment was just the scarf covering her hair, which on command she allegedly refused to remove!

It is my humble view that the Legal Authorities erred in refusing this young woman admission to the Bar on that score alone; her dressing met substantially with the regulation code, and what was required was substantial, not absolute, compliance. I think that the Legal Authorities were too slavish and mechanical in their interpretation and application of the extant regulations pertaining to the female dress code. As a matter of fact, the female dress code issued by the Council of Legal Education even authorizes the wearing of the full hijab to such occasions, subject only to the stricture that it must not cover the ear or other facial features.

No discernible prejudice or injury would have been occasioned by a purposive construction and application of the dress protocol for female lawyers on this occasion, nor would the admission of the lady as dressed have caused any discernible diminution of the esteem of the legal profession. On the balance of convenience, greater injustice has been done to the young woman, and unnecessary hoopla and tension raised in a nation already teetering at the edge of religious faultlines, by this singular act of administrative fastidiousnes!

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