Why the Ugandan miniskirt ban proposal is good news

Protesters in South Africa, 2012

If the government passes a proposal that bans miniskirts, Uganda may soon join the list of countries to restrict women from making independent choices about what they wear. If the bill, which has been proposed by (insert drumroll) the minister of ethics, Simon Lokodo, is passed, women who fail to abide may be sentenced to a fifteen year jail term.

Lokodo himself believes that “Women should support me here, because it is in their favour that I’m doing this.”
Oh, really? Surely, if exposing parts of a woman’s body tempts a man to sexual pleasure to the point that he must rape and assault her (as is Lokodo’s argument), then the problem of an ethics minister should be how to “ban” male brains from being wired that way.The truth of the matter is that the proposal is nothing other than an indication of how incredulously intimidating women’s sexual independence is to men like Lokodo.

However, this is also why the proposal is good news. If there is no counteraction to women’s independence, it means that women are not demanding equality as determinedly as they ought to be. Here’s the formula: The more women demand sexual independence, the bigger the backlash against them. This is a global fact. It is therefore no surprise that in Uganda, a country where the feminist movement has an impressive record on demanding equality, there is antagonism towards a sartorial item that is traditionally linked with sexual liberation.

As long as Ugandan feminists continue to push for their rights – sexual, political and cultural, we can expect a situation where even more structural sexism is exposed as well as even more whining coming from those that are adamant to uphold it.

The Ugandan state is far from alone in attempts to prevent miniskirts from appearing on women’s bodies. In 2012, young men wandered the streets of Lusaka in Zambia attacking women wearing mini-skirts. When physically lowering their hemlines was not enough, women were brutally violated; one woman was found dead with both hands tied behind her using her mini-skirt. Last year, women in Johannesburg protested against increasing numbers of assaults on women wearing mini-skirts.  In Ghana, a derogatory term that entered local parlance through a Hip-Life song in 2003 – Apuskeleke – has changed from describing young women associated with “Sugar Daddies” to young women who wear mini skirts. In fact across the world, from South Korea to Mexico to Italy, women’s bared legs are seen as the demise of morality and traditional femininity. Go figure.

What links all “anti-miniskirt campaigns” is that they are deeply rooted in Victorian values and have nothing to do with protecting women.





4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Sarah

    Hear, hear!

    • MsAfropolitan


  • Nichole

    First, I wonder why there is even a “Minister of Ethics”. Perhaps you could shed some light on the purpose of that position. Second, you bring up a great point about the need to focus on the source of sexual violence, the mind of perpetuator that is socially wired to believe that men are unable to control their desires and should not be held responsible for their actions. The blame is placed, again, on the woman as a temptress who has to take extra unnecessary precaution to protect her body from violation by a grown, decision-making man. Also, this “Minister of Ethics” should be aware that crimes, such as rape, are more about violence and an underlying hatred of women than sex, demonstrated by the use of rape as a war tactic in places like the DRC

    • MsAfropolitan

      It’s probably one of these roles that are hashed out to create government positions for family or something. Certainly, the criteria for the position seem ridiculous. It’s sad, Nichole, that we still in 2013 have to put up with this crap.
      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

  • Linda B
    • http://www.msafropolitan.com MsAfropolitan

      Hi Linda,
      While I disagree with the author’s point of view, since what Lokodo refers to as pornography in the bill is
      nonsense, she brings an interesting dimension on the potence of the mini. There a link in my post to a one hour interview with him discussing, well, very much the mini..

  • http://seriousfaces.blogspot.com Anna

    Good post.

    In Zambia we recently had a female Supreme Court judge argue that “indecent dress” causes gender based violence. I was surprised and pleased to see that the judge’s comments were widely condemned as absurd and irresponsible.

    In the end, I’m glad that the lunatic judge made those statements because for a while there we had some rare, important discussions about the real causes of violence against women.

    • http://www.msafropolitan.com MsAfropolitan

      This is reassuring to hear, I wonder also if Zambia’s long, complex journey with women’s clothing and miniskirt ban (first one in the 60s) has encouraged an increasingly progressive view. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.msafropolitan.com MsAfropolitan


  • Havah

    Hi Ms Afropolitan,

    This whole mini-skirt ban also reminds of a conversation I had with a male friend about the sentencing of a husband who killed his 2 children, then tried to off himself, because his wife cheated on him then left him for the other man. My friend said the bereaved mother brought it on her because she cheated on a faithful husband. I asked my friend what is so precious about male egos so that they can’t bear pain or betrayal. Indeed, if all the cheated female partners in Africa were to commit murder-suicides because of their situation, there would be no more kids. My friend said nothing. When it comes to adultery, the woman is always and the only faulty part: the wife excuses her husband (poor animal who can’t control himself) but hates the other woman, the temptress; the pain felt by the cheated husband is so magnified by the betrayal that it gives him a free pass to kill his wife.
    I don’t know if you’ve already written a post about these issues but matrimonial relationships and adultery in African societies are other fields where the promotion of women rights has a long way ahead of it.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Havah!
      What a terrible story! Sigh. It’s a huge problem indeed. I read a somewhat similar story of a man in India who killed his mother because she’d cheated on his dad and then missed her so much he became suicidal.
      I’ve not written about adultery yet, thanks for the idea… I also want to write about polygamy and marriage in African societies. Watch this space!

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