Over in Aotearoa New Zealand, the co-leader of the Maori Party Rawiri Waititi has won a battle against the country’s parliament and its strict, European dress code.
On Tuesday, Waititi had wore a traditional pendant called a hei-tiki (which is considered part of Maori business attire) inside the debating chamber. However, the dress code states that formal attire must be worn, which for men meant wearing a European-style necktie.
It’s a stupid and racist rule, but Waititi was nevertheless ejected from the chamber. The Speaker Trevor Mallard admitted that he didn’t personally agree with the rule, but he still enforced it by kicking Waititi out.
“This is a breach of the rights of indigenous peoples,” Waititi told the press after the incident.
“We have the right to practice our cultural identity.
“That is not part of my culture, ties. And it’s forcing indigenous peoples to wear what I describe as a colonial noose.”
New Zealand Maori leader Rawiri Waititi ejected from parliament for not wearing a necktie said that enforcing a Western dress code was an attempt to suppress indigenous culture https://t.co/x8DI6UnMyU pic.twitter.com/u1w9jkqauS
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 10, 2021
Meanwhile, fellow Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer actually did wear a necktie, despite being a woman, in order to protest against the arbitrary rules.
Eventyally, the parliament backed down and allowed Waititi to speak on Wednesday wearing a hei-tiki.
“They can come into this space feeling comfortable about who they are and to express their cultural identity, without discrimination and without prejudice.”
Afterwards, a parliamentary committee got together and changed the laws to state that while people still did have to dress formally, neckties aren’t compulsory for men anymore.
The rule change marks the end of a months-long battle for Waititi. Back in December, he brought up the necktie issue during his maiden speech.
“Mr Speaker, Maori have had enough of being assimilated and forced to do and look like everyone else,” he told the chamber at the time.
“We are not like everyone else. We are unique. Being Maori is like having superpowers. There is no-one else in the world like us, and we need to maintain who we are.”