Around 200 women were out in the streets of Uganda’s capital Kampala holding protests as the country imposes anti-miniskirt and anti-gay legislation. The prudish country first hit the gays on an ongoing basis and is now turning its attention to the women.
While not officially calling them miniskirts, the anti-pornography bill prevents women from showing their buttocks, thighs or breasts when walking the streets. In other words they must not dress indecently in a manner that would “sexually excite.”
The main reason for the protest was that police had allegedly forced women to take off their skirts in public. Reportedly some women were even stripped publicly in punishment for wearing indecent clothing.
Angered at this, the women gathered in front of the national theater in Kampala carrying banners stating that their bodies are their own business and demanding that police not touch their miniskirts, as officers in full riot gear looked on.
Uganda’s president signed the anti-pornography bill back in December, which literally bans what they term “indecent clothing.” Apparently, the country’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, put forward the legislation stating that women who wore “anything above the knee” should be arrested.
It seems, however, that only in the last week, several women wearing short skirts in public have been assaulted and harassed. In fact one of the organizers of the event claims that she was harassed merely by going to police headquarters to request permission to hold the protest march.
Patience Akumu told the media that she was wearing a dress that she considered to be “official.” However, policeman after policeman, regardless of their rank, told her that she could not enter the police station wearing a miniskirt. Akumu added that some of the police officers “manhandled” her. When she took photos of the officers, they also allegedly confiscated her phone.
Despite the manhandling of the protest organizer, police later issued a statement which condemned “mob…undressing” by police officers.
Reportedly the issue of the miniskirt ban came up in Parliament on Tuesday because of several cases of harassment and assault of women.
The Parliament in Uganda is drawing both protests and condemnation internationally as it imposes both the anti-miniskirt and anti-gay legislation and on the social effects of this.
According to Rita Achiro, who is executive director of the Uganda Women’s Network, her organization may take legal action about the situation in Uganda, stating that the country’s constitution guarantees that both sexes are treated equally. She told the media that with the miniskirt ban, people are now more free to abuse women openly and are likely to judge women just by what they see as indecent in her clothing. She says this really puts women at risk in Uganda.
With the country taking strong action against homosexuals by enacting harsh laws, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has drawn condemnation internationally. This week the government toughened the penalties for gay people in the country even more. Now it seems the Nanny State of Uganda has gone one step further by forcing the women to cover up by publicly embarrassing, harassing and assaulting them.
The world will be watching the protests as Uganda attracts ever more international criticism as it imposes both anti-gay and anti-miniskirt legislation on the country’s citizens.
Opinion and news report by Anne Sewell