We’re not imposing Islamic values with aurat-covering maternity pants, designer says

BY YISWAREE PALANSAMY
The MamaPride pants, which resemble track bottoms with an opening in the front for childbirth has been causing a stir not only nationwide but globally as well. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 — The designer of the much-talked about aurat-covering maternity trousers increasingly popular with pregnant Muslim women has defended the curious clothing as an article of modesty.

MamaPride pants co-creator Dr Wan Yusof Wan Jeffery denied criticism that the trousers perpetuates a body-shaming culture, saying he was not selling religious values but rather offering a solution for the modest-minded.

“People have their own sets of beliefs, so who are we to dictate if their beliefs are civilised or not?

“MamaPride pants is merely an alternative solution for women who are uncomfortable with the idea of having male doctors attend to them during childbirth, and from our survey, it is not just many Malay Muslim women who feel this way, but non-Muslim women too.

“It is their right to safeguarding what they feel is modesty or aurat to them… it is a choice they make over their bodies,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

The maternity trousers, which resemble track bottoms with an opening in the front for childbirth has been causing a stir not only nationwide but globally as well.

Yesterday, international news wire Reuters reported the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), a local rights group questioning if the MamaPride pants were “a choice for women in labour” or manufacturers “cashing in on politicised Islam in Malaysia”.

“We find it unthinkable that a business should attempt to profit off the trend of body-shaming and women’s insecurities while further perpetuating arbitrary notions of what it means to be ‘modest’,” AWAM was quoted saying.

Several others also weighed in on the product with programme adviser in the Malaysia office of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Saira Shameem saying that the trousers could pose a risk by complicating emergency surgical interventions, adding that the pants were an example of how “interpretations of religious texts can potentially put the lives of women, and their children, in situations of increased medical risk”.

Reuters also cited a women’s rights activist in Afghanistan labelling the trousers as being ridiculous.

However, the activist, Manizha Naderi pointed out that women in Afghanistan refrain from going to male gynaecologists “unless their lives depend on it”, adding that Afghan women also do not permit male doctors touching them for regular examinations.

In response to the remarks, Dr Wan Yusof said he believed the medical environment in Afghanistan — a strict Islamic nation — catered to this preference, unlike in Malaysia where he said pregnant women have to pay more to have female doctors attend to their delivery as only private hospitals entertained such requests.

“I assume they have a choice in Afghanistan. Like I previously said, if you are lucky to get a female doctor to attend to your delivery, then you are lucky. But if you don’t, then that is where these pants come as an option to prevent discomfort,” he said.

Dr Wan Yusof related that the production of MamaPride pants is also a calculated risk as their customers may not be able to put them on during delivery, depending on the condition at that time.

“There are high risks births and low risks and our product is targeted for the latter. We also advise our customers to consult their gynecologists first and if their doctor or nurse says ‘no’, then we are even prepared to refund,” he said.

He claimed that legally, medical practitioners cannot impose such restrictions as the patients who have the right to choose.

“But sometimes, things happen and you cannot argue with medical doctors who are experts in their field… we don’t teach our customers to fight with doctors... we tell our patients to redha,” he said, using the Arabic phrase that means to accept it.

Dr Wan Yusof maintained that the production of the pants was based on solid research before it was put on the market, but said the company kept an open mind to criticism.

“I appreciate their point of view, but they should have conducted their own interviews, like what we did, to back their criticisms. We are open to working with AWAM on this,” he added.

Malay Mail Online had previously reported on the MamaPride maternity pants.

The fanbase nationwide appears to be growing, judging from the positive comments posted on its Facebook page which appear to be its main medium for sales.

The trousers, which cover a woman’s waist, thighs, knees and legs all the way to the ankle, has a hatch-like opening at the pelvic area that can be unfastened to provide doctors the necessary access during labour.

The designers are currently conducting research to create disposable version of the pants which they are hoping to distribute for free under a benefaction project.