#Savetheminiskirt trends as Uganda tables bill to ban mini-skirts

by Katie Nguyen | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 5 April 2013 15:21 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

When I used to live in Nairobi, there'd be rumours every now and then of men roaming the city centre stripping any woman wearing a short skirt - to shame her for her 'indecency'.

I never actually witnessed this but the fear of what might happen in the streets was enough to send us scurrying to the Reuters office kitchen where we checked our hemlines, wondering if they might be in the 'danger zone'.

We'd also hear that it was common for women and girls upcountry not to wear trousers because that item of clothing was also considered indecent.

It wasn't confined to Kenya. Across Africa, women are generally expected to dress conservatively. Those are the unspoken rules.

However, across the border, Uganda is thinking of taking things a step further with a bill that would ban mini-skirts as part of wider anti-porn legislation.

Under the proposal, offenders would face a fine or even jail-time, according to the private Daily Monitor newspaper.

Integrity and Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, himself a former Catholic priest, presented the bill and reportedly said it was needed to protect women and children against exploitation and to curb increasing immorality.

The obsession with mini-skirts, old-fashioned notions of modesty and policing what women wear has caused a Twitterstorm with Ugandans using the hashtag #savetheminiskirt to express indignation, mockery and yes, also, flashes of chauvinism.

"In Lokodo's head, "Integrity" = long skirts. It has absolutely nothing to do with things like corruption in government #SaveTheMiniSkirt," tweeted journalist Patience Atuhaire.

Grace Natabaalo in Kampala said this wasn't about women showing off their legs, but about the government "trying to take over our lives".

"We have mini-hospitals that can't cater 4 our needs, mini-roads with potholes, mini-funds for educ. Y focus on miniskirt? #savetheminiskirt," Natabaalo also tweeted.

Trevor E Muhwezi tackled the culture that blames women and what they wear for sexual violence.

"#savetheminiskirt cause miniskirts don't rape men do!," he said.

Hopefully, sanity and public opinion will be prevail.

The Daily Monitor said the draft law ran into "early turbulence" when some members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee expressed concerns about its implications for freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

"While the Bill seeks to outlaw indecent dressing among other social behaviours deemed pornographic under the legal parameters of the Bill, the lawmakers said the lack of definition for what constitutes "decent dressing" makes the Bill awkward and asked the government to stop curtailing freedoms in the country which could scare away tourists," the paper said.

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