White wigs of British lawyers abandoned for “hair discrimination”?

White wigs of British lawyers abandoned for “hair discrimination”?
White wigs of British lawyers abandoned for “hair discrimination”?

They were criticized by black lawyers who considered them discriminatory. The traditional wigs of the United Kingdom, which judges and lawyers have worn since 1685, could be abandoned, says Le Figaro.

This wig, although out of fashion, had been kept by British lawyers and judges to symbolize authority and neutrality. Now it has become discriminatory towards people with afro hair. Lawyers have called for the compulsory wig to be repealed, which they also believe “archaic”.

A working group to change the dress code

Michael Etienne, a lawyer with afro hair, sparked a public debate in 2022, at the same time threatened with administrative sanctions. The lawyer would then have described the obligation as hair discrimination, therefore a form of racism.

Read also: The tie is no longer compulsory in the British Parliament either

The newspaper explains that a spokesperson for the Bar Council, which represents lawyers in England and Wales, said that “following questions from lawyers on discrimination linked to wigs”the board “established a working group to review court attire”.

A “dialogue” is underway with the judiciary, on the “issues of equality and diversity”the spokesperson informed the Telegraph .

So will the dress code for British lawyers and judges change? The answer should be given during the fall.

64 wigs for €137,000 in Zimbabwe

Wearing a wig had already been the subject of disagreement, followed by relaxations. Since 2007, it has no longer been used when it comes to family or civil cases or before the Supreme Court. Only criminal cases require it to be worn.

London lawyer Leslie Thomas QC, who is fighting for the abolition of wigs, calls them “ridiculous costume” representative “culturally insensitive climate” at the British Bar.

In 2022, the media Africanews recounted the wig debate in the former British colony, Zimbabwe: “In Zimbabwe, should judges continue to wear wigs? The former British colony has carried out a vast public consultation, which is due to end on Thursday, on the maintenance of an expensive use sometimes considered as a tradition inspiring respect or a relic of the colonial era. » A question awakened by a revelation. In 2019, media reports claimed that the state of Zimbabwe purchased 64 wigs from Britain at a cost of €137,000. Hair is expensive.

In 2021, breaking with the 200-year-old tradition, vegan wigs were produced for the first time in the United Kingdom. Hemp wigs which were supposed to reconcile tradition with those concerned about the animal cause.

In 2013, the horsehair wig also caused debate among Hong Kong lawyers. A legal dispute had been launched over who should be allowed to wear them, or not.

A historic bun backlash

In 2011, a handful of lawyers appeared dressed in traditional black robes and white horsehair wigs for a preliminary hearing in a case involving violence after Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election. The matter was debated and The Telegraph relays that the judge had asked that no one wear the wig if it was not obligatory. At the same time, British lawyer David Hooper appeared in court without his wig.

In 2006, Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj refused to accept David Hooper with a wig as his court-appointed lawyer because he wanted to defend himself in the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. “This man with a bird’s nest on his head was falsely presented as my lawyer”the Serbian nationalist declared in court, referring to lawyer Hooper’s wig, reports the British newspaper.

A chronicle on France Inter reported on the wig wars raging in English-speaking Africa in 2017, denouncing a colonial survival. “From Ghana to Kenya, from Zimbabwe to Malawi, in short throughout English-speaking Africa formerly colonized by Great Britain, a “war of the blonde wigs” is indeed raging. »

Clearly, in addition to being mocked in thousands of posts on X, the British wig representing the law is the subject of numerous backlashes. That said, the latest accusing him of discrimination could be right for him. Answer next fall.

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