Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 07:41:09 -0400
Fuss Over Hairstyle
Yahoo! News, Tuesday 24 August 1999, 8:22 AM ET
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands (Reuters) - A long-simmering dispute over a law barring dreadlocked Rastafarians and people appearing to be hippies from entering the British Virgin Islands has again raised its head.
In an editorial first printed three years ago and repeated in its latest edition, the weekly BVI Beacon inveighed against the measure, saying it was ridiculous and should be repealed.
"If people of any perceived subculture indeed did once pose a threat to the territory, surely there must be more effective ways to deal with the disorderly than this ridiculous law which brings the whole territory into 'disrepute, odium and contempt,"' said the editorial.
The "Rasta law," known officially as the Immigration and Passport (prohibited class of persons) Order, forbids Rastafarians and hippies from entering the British Caribbean territory and is enforced by immigration officers.
"It is a very volatile issue in a territory and region. It is an unfair law. There is no real way to enforce it and it puts us in a very bad light, particularly for a country whose economy is based on tourism," Linnell Abbott, editor of the BVI Beacon, told Reuters.
Members of the Rastafarian religion/subculture traditionally wear thick naturally matted rope-like hairstyles and have been discriminated against.
The 20,000-resident island chain enacted the law in the 1980s when residents felt they had been invaded by so-called hippies and blamed a rising crime rate on Rastafarians. "The territory was being plagued by hippies. They would come in from abroad, and they had no place of abode, so you would find them knocking about, sleeping, drinking and sexing on the beach," British Virgin Islands Chief Minister Ralph O'Neal told the Beacon in a recent article.
The editorial was originally printed in October 1996 but was reprinted "for its timeliness still." "What, then, about the real crooks, white collar or otherwise, whose dapper appearance allows them to move freely in and out of the territory, while executing their mischievous agendas," the editorial asked.