Hanoi should reconsider its plan to name and shame people wearing skimpy clothes in public places to avoid facing strong public opposition, experts have warned.
The city government last Friday started soliciting opinions for a draft version of its new etiquette code, with rules regarding cursing, smoking, spitting, urination, vandalism and wearing skimpy or offensive clothes in public.
All locals and tourists will be subjected to the rules and violators will be publicly criticized in the media, Hanoi officials said.
But experts say it is always difficult, if not illegal, to impose restrictions on how people dress, which they describe as a very personal choice.
Duong Trung Quoc, a member of the National Assembly, Vietnam’s top legislative body, said that skimpy or offensive clothes should be a matter of opinion instead of a legal issue.
“It’s not easy these days for a government agency to intervene in personal choices, if those choices are not harmful to the public interest,” Quoc said.
Quoc said that when a rule cannot be implemented and policed, it will backfire and cause public disrespect for government agencies.
He said the regulations should not have been discussed in the first place, considering that Vietnam has not been very successful to ban really harmful acts, such as smoking in public.
Culture experts said if the regulations must be introduced, they should be limited to religious places.
Tran Thang, chairman of the Institute for Vietnamese Culture & Education in New York, said even places of worship often have their own rules that visitors need to follow.
Such a ban hardly exists anywhere else in the world, Thang said. He also noted that even the term "offensive clothes” is too vague and it will mean different things to different people.
Hanoi should just encourage people to follow its etiquette suggestions instead of treating them like strict rules, he said.
Thang also advised against public shaming, saying it might violate human rights and the city may have to deal with lawsuits if it chooses to proceed with the proposed ban.
Many local netizens also dismissed the new plan, saying the authorities should try harder to end littering and street crimes.