#SaveTheMiniskirt: Uganda Proposes Miniskirt Ban

2 May

The Ugandan government is proposing legislation that would forbid women from wearing miniskirts in public. Women could be arrested for donning skirts above the knee if the law is passed.

Instead of teaching men not to rape, Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister, is supporting the legislation. “It’s outlawing any indecent dressing including miniskirts,” he said to the Mail & Guardian.

“Any attire which exposes intimate parts of the human body, especially areas that are of erotic function, are outlawed. Anything above the knee is outlawed. If a woman wears a miniskirt, we will arrest her.”

Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, also blamed sexual assault on ‘indecent’ clothing. “One can wear what one wants, but please do not be provocative,” he said. “We know people who are indecently dressed: they do it provocatively and sometimes they are attacked. An onlooker is moved to attack her and we want to avoid those areas. He is a criminal but he was also provoked and enticed.”

The legislation would not extend to men because it’s a woman’s onus to avoid rape.  “Men are normally not the object of attraction; they are the ones who are provoked. They can go bare-chested on the beach, but would you allow your daughter to go bare-chested?” Lokodo asked.

The miniskirt-ban would return Uganda to the Idi Amin-dominated days when “provocative clothing” was prohibited by degree. A similar proposal was mulled in 2008 to “combat prostitution and reduce traffic accidents” according to The Guardian.

James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s former minister of ethics and integrity, said miniskirts promote immorality and distract drivers.

“Women of 60 years and below are putting on miniskirts and this is crazy. The miniskirt can cause an accident when you are sitting with a woman in a car. Men while driving gaze out when they see these women and this causes accidents,” he told The Guardian.

The government-sponsored anti-pornography bill would also ban many films and TV dramas and all pornography. It “proposes that anyone found guilty of abetting pornography faces a 10m shillings (£2,515) fine or a maximum of 10 years in jail, or both” according to The Guardian.

Popular entertainers, including Beyoncé and Madonna, would be banned from television for being scantily-clad. “We are saying anything that exposes private parts of the human body is pornography and anything obscene will be outlawed. Television should not broadcast a sexy person. Certain intimate parts of the body cannot be opened except for a spouse in a private place,” Lokodo explained.

Internet monitoring is also included in the anti-pornography bill. “A lot of photos, television, films will be outlawed. Even on the internet, we’re going to put a monitoring system so we know who has watched which website and we know who has watched pornographic material.”

Lokodo is confident in the bill, but other Ugandan legislators are concerned. Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper reports the Parliamentary Committee is worried about the bill’s infringement on constitutional freedoms. The law’s perimeters might also outlaw some traditional cultural practices by labeling them pornographic.

Many Ugandans are opposed to the legislation and are expressing their discontent through the Twitter hashtag, #SaveMiniSkirt.

Sam Akaki, international emissary of Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change, sees the bill as sexist discrimination. “This law will create an apartheid system by stealth,” he explained to The Guardian. “Whereas the former apartheid system in South Africa discriminated [against] people on the basis or race, this one will discriminate people on the basis of gender. Any law that discriminates people in any way is a bad law.”

“If Lokodo or anyone in Uganda is serious about fighting immorality, they should fight corruption,” he concluded.

The proposal set off a firestorm on Twitter, with many mocking the bill and criticising it for infringing on women’s rights.

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