This year's National Debating Competition-National Economic Seminar at Universitas Padjadjaran, a Bandung-based non-religious state school, is laced with conservative overtones. Female participants are barred from wearing tank tops and miniskirts or showing parts of their thighs and cleavages during the April 6-9 tournament. While dress codes are not uncommon in debates, the norm is usually to recommend smart wardrobe without being as puritanical as NDC-NES. The economics-themed debate is part of a program that will be attended by high-ranking officials, including a minister and the West Java governor who come from Muslim-based parties. It is regretful if the ban is imposed to entertain their brand of politics.
The current government is currently on a mission to restrict female dress, starting from the presidential palace where female guests have been denied entry for failing to cover up. The government last month formed an anti-pornography task force that has chastised the use of mini skirts in public. On Twitter, Indonesian debaters have lambasted this prudish drive. It is interesting whether words will turn into deeds when the issue confronts them directly at NDC-NES. The tournament, which will be attended by 31 teams from all over the country, will also have Quran reading before the event starts.