Education authorities in Pakistan's Haripur district have made it mandatory for all female students of government schools to wear an abaya, gown or chador, aimed at "protecting them from eve-teasing and harassment".
A circular issued earlier this week by Samina Altaf, District Education Officer, asked all principals and headmasters of government schools to ensure that girl students adhered to the new dress code, Dawn news reported.
"Instruct all students to use gown or abaya or chador to veil/conceal/cover up their-self in order to protect them from any unethical incidents," the circular said.
"It was necessary to protect girl students from a growing number of complaints of eve-teasing and harassment," she said.
"A good number of girl students have developed a habit of wearing 'dupatta' or half chador, which is not sufficient to cover their bodies," the official added.
She said that since providing police protection to girl students at every nook and corner was not possible, the administration had decided to make it binding upon them to observe "proper purdah for their safety".
Commenting on the circular, Umar Farooq, a social activist and office-bearer of Rawadari Tehreek, criticised the decision.
"Instead of ensuring the safety of girl students, the authorities have bound them to dress against their will," he said.
The social activist stressed the need for effecting a gradual change in social attitudes and for educating girls and boys both to respect each other.
But Muhammad Sohail, whose daughter is a class 10 student, supported the move. "It will certainly help bring down complaints of harassment. The government should have made the decision much earlier," he said.