Swaziland: Women in Mini-Skirts Face Arrest

Police in Swaziland will arrest women who wear mini-skirts - and they say a law dating from 1889 allows them to do it.

And, it will only take one complaint for a woman to be arrested and put behind bars, they say.

Police say men do not like to see women dressed in skimpy clothes in public.

Newspapers in the kingdom have been running stories and letters from readers recently with accounts of how some women have been harassed by men because they wear pants, rather than skirts.

Some women have also been attacked for wearing skimpy clothes deemed unsuitable by men. In all these cases, those supporting the harassment of women have cited Swazi 'traditional values' as justification.

Police recently halted a protest march by women who wore mini-skirts to draw attention to the harassment they face.

Now, a local newspaper has quoted the Swaziland Police official spokesperson Wendy Hleta saying mini-skirts are deemed to be indecent, immoral and have an element of nudity.

Hleta told the Times Sunday the Crimes Act of 1889 outlawed this type of clothing.

She said the law controls 'immorality and offences in public places or places of public resort and control of places of public interest'.

The newspaper reported her saying it would only take one person to lay a complaint with the police then they would not hesitate but put the offender behind bars.

Hleta said the law has not been enforced recently, but since men in the city of Manzini, especially at the bus rank, said they were not happy with mini-skirts police were warning women of the existence of the law.

Offenders can be fined up to E100 (US$10) or face up to six months in jail if they cannot pay the fine.

Hleta said the law excluded exposure of the body due to breast feeding and wearing cultural regalia.

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