Sartorial offense: Western clothing
The debate: Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was so eager to put Buddhist teachings into action that he promoted the metric of "gross national happiness" as an alternative to traditional economic development measures. He also, however, found some less warm and fuzzy ways of preserving traditional Bhutanese culture from what he saw as corrupting outside influences -- among them, draconian restrictions on clothing.
Since 1990, Bhutanese have been required by law to follow the official national dress code, known as Driglam Namzha, in public. For men, that involves a knee-length robe known as a gho. For women, it's a type of ankle-length kimono called a kira. Those caught wearing anything else can be subject to a $3.30 fine, which amounts to three days' wages. The rules are even more specific for civil servants, who must wear sashes of various colors and designs depending on their office. Bhutanese have evolved some bizarre fashion responses to the law, including the briefly in vogue practice of wearing jeans under the gho.
Driglam Namzha is just one of the cultural laws resented by the Hindu Nepalese community in southern Bhutan, which has been persecuted for years by the Bhutanese government.
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