Recently there was a big ruckus created about a judge not being allowed into a club in Chennai (India) as he turned up in unacceptable attire. The unacceptable attire happened to be traditional South Indian dress. The media and people went into frenzy, criticizing the club saying such imposed dress codes are discriminatory and a result of colonial hangover. So much so that the State Government had to issue a threat of cancelling the club’s license, echoing the public outcry. I personally though, have a different take on this matter.
I think discrimination is a strong word and needs to be used carefully. Only and only when one is denied any of the fundamental rights due to some misplaced reason, can discrimination be said to have been done for example, human dignity. Every human being has a right to dignity and if he is denied that then he is definitely being discriminated against. In this context a club membership is neither mandatory nor a fundamental human right, so whatever the club decides to do definitely can’t be called as discrimination. Also there is no news of the club having denied membership on the basis of caste, creed, color or nationality.
That having said, it only leaves out the point of dress. The only real question to be asked is, whether the club makes it clear any dress code to be followed in its terms and conditions while offering membership. As long as it does, it has the right to deny entry to anyone who has agreed to follow the code of conduct but doesn’t adhere to it. Such denials definitely don’t tantamount to discrimination. If we question the club about its right to impose a dress code, then we need to question Schools, Colleges, Armed Forces and any other such private or public enterprises that impose similar dress codes. Also not to forget that an individual has the choice of refraining from taking membership of any such club which doesn’t accept the attire he/she is most comfortable in.
I believe that Government stepping in and enacting a law that would prevent such Clubs from denying entry to people in unacceptable attires is not the right. Infact Government should have never stepped in, it sets a wrong precedence. The matter must have been left to the club and its members to decide and sort out.
I would also like to infact applaud the Club. At least it didn’t discriminate or show special privileges and had the guts to stop a High Court judge when found at fault! That’s rare in this country.