Ugandan women protest anti-mini skirt mobs
March 2, 2014
Reports of mobs attacking and stripping women naked in Uganda drove women in Kampala to protest on Wednesday. Women’s rights activists said the attacks occurred under the guise of enforcing a recently passed anti-pornography law that many critics said was too vague. Opponents have focused their criticism on a clause that has been interpreted as banning “indecent” clothing.
President Yoweri Museveni reportedly signed the bill into law last week. A police spokesperson issued a warning to the public on Monday, saying, “If you participate in mob justice and are caught, you will be dealt with accordingly.”
Wednesday’s protest was organised through the Facebook group END Mini-Skirt Harassment, whose message also went viral online.
In response to the mob attacks and widespread confusion over the law, many Ugandan women on Facebook and Twitter blamed the media who they say spread the idea of a ban on miniskirts. “The moment one politician decided to relate pornography to short skirts, and the media took it upon themselves to blow it into a miniskirt ban, the result was acts of uncontrolled undressing of women in downtown Kampala, as well as stealing of property in their possession. So which is better? The exposure of a naked woman and the humiliating act? OR having a woman with some clothing around their mid -waist? Which is more pornographic?”
Confusion can also be linked to a previous version of the bill, which took a broad definition of pornography, including banning the exhibition of “sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or genitalia”. However, that language was removed from the final version of the act reportedly signed by the president, which uses a different definition of pornography. According to Irene Ikomu of Parliament Watch Uganda, “This however does not mean that [the law] is any clearer, the act in its definition of pornography now includes indecency as one of its representations. It however does not define what indecency is and thus leaves it vague”.
Despite removing the original language, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo has recently suggested
that the current law could see women arrested for wearing miniskirts.