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Oct 21, 2019

Women Police Officer Fighting Ban on Dreadlocks

Earlier in the year, the Belize Police Department began to enforce the department’s Standard Orders regarding hairstyle and consequently banned dreadlocks. Six women police officers were accused of willfully disobeying a lawful command from Commissioner of Police Chester Williams. A memo circulated within the department states that one of the reasons for the ban on dreadlocks is the possibility that these officers would not be able to be identified in general because of the hairstyle. Another reason given is that the hairstyle is a work hazard. Administrative proceedings were brought against the women and two have retained the legal services of attorney Anthony Sylvestre. But according to Sylvestre, it is not about hairstyles. He says it is about women as afro-descendants choosing to express their ethnicity through the dreadlocks. Dates to proceed with the civil claim were set today and it returns before the courts on Thursday for directions. 

 

Anthony Sylvestre

Anthony Sylvestre, Attorney for Claimants

“The proceeding, they were suspended but they are still proceedings they can nonetheless be brought back. So what we have done is approach the court. We brought constitutional applications on behalf two of the officers and we are inviting the court to consider whether those proceedings that were brought were discriminatory and against the constitution because as you may know in our country persons ought not to be discriminated meaning they should not be treated differently because of their ethnicity, religion, where they come from so that our perspective if and the officers in fact have actually post in their application that look we as black females, the texture of our hair is such that when we actually put our hair in dreadlock it is no different from someone who has a different texture hair growing their hair long. In the Police Department there are persons who are non-afro ethnicity who are able to have their hair whatever length they so wish. The question of whether these women because the mere fact that they are afro-ethnicity and that the texture of their hair causes the dreadlocks to be the way it is that such a treatment, because other similarly placed females in the department they have been subjected to such an instruction or directive for them to cut their hair or to remove or shave their hair. Those would be issues that the court will have to determine and we just wait what will be the courts direction on how we would proceed. Will we proceed simply on paper or would the case be tried simply on submissions or will there be witnesses who will be called and who will be cross examined.”


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