20 February 2013

Namibia: Mini-Skirt Debate Heats Up

Photo: DuncanCV/Flickr
(file photo)

Windhoek — Namibian Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga's warning that women will be arrested if they wear "short and revealing" mini-skirts, because it is not acceptable in African cultures, has sparked widespread outrage on social networks.

The Facebook social network was abuzz with angry comments about Ndeitunga's remarks, who was quoted in The Namibian saying: "... the police do not want to interfere in citizens' constitutional freedom but there is a need to underline the importance of culture, especially to our young people and that includes what they wear."

"I wonder which Africa Ndeitunga knows. More so, if he [is] sufficiently cognizant with culture and diversity, for that matter. To sum up on one word: Abantu gals ' suitable dress code is denudation, bra. Or nude," said Murandura Ndura.

Abasha Tjipetekera wrote: "Comrade Ndeitunga, there is nothing Africanish (sic) about the clothes that we are wearing in our days be it mini skirt or a leka (nice) striped suit with a red tie. ... If you really wana implement that then I had suggest you say we must go back to our original African theme of wearing hand made clothes from animal skin such as the Himbas .... In my opinion that's more revealing than a mini skirt! Let us wear our mini skirts ASB (please)."

"Congratulations crooks, thieves, women-abusers, murderers etc! Now, per official order by Nampol's top brass (on the front page of The Namibian today), the Namibian cops will spend their days checking the length of women's skirts/shorts. What a wonderful world it is! (But what says the Constitution?)," asked Hobie Clark.

Another user posted that instead of dealing with real issues affecting Namibians, Nampol decided to go against mini-skirts. The user reasoned that we were not the first to wear them (mini-skirts) and neither are we the last, our grandmothers and great grandmothers wore them too.

"There is no empirical evidence that mini-skirts are responsible for the spate of Gender Based Violence in Namibia, none! The San (also African, actually Original Africans) wear the shortest mini skirts, but roam the land freely (literally). Nampol should focus their attention on finding Shaduka, and he definitely isn't under some mini skirt!" Ricardo Goagoseb said.

Amanda Kaipiti Utjiua said the banning of mini-skirts was oppression towards women, a sexist view and a way of shifting focus from serious issues at hand such as finding Shanduka. "We have a lot of things that are unAfrican including the Bible and Christianity which was brought by the missionaries, the clothes, means of transportation and all kinds of machines. Mind you people in the past (we) use(d) to wear clothes made from animal skin, use(d) to believe in ancestors and used to travel by foot or donkey even on cattle's (sic)," she said, adding that we have passed the stage of transformation from traditional societies to a modern society many years ago.

"Holy Saudi Arabia. Why is it that when 'African culture' is invoked to justify a repressive measure, it sounds so much like rightwing Christianity? The San and Himba are also African last time I checked. Arresting women for wearing mini-skirts? That's not a good sign people," wrote Rob Parker. Some have called on all women to wear mini-skirts on Friday to protest Ndeitunga's remarks. Others posted signs saying "Keep Calm and Wear a Mini Skirt."

But another user commented that the only remedy and solution was to avoid being naked on the street. He maintained that mini-skirts were not proper at all. "Wear it at home or at your boyfriend or husband's door step," he said. Forty girls were reportedly arrested at Rundu last December for wearing 'hot pants'. Mini-skirts have become a bone of contention in many Southern African states. In Swaziland for instance, women are banned from wearing mini-skirts and midriff revealing tops, because they apparently provoke rape. Offenders face a six-month jail term under the ban, which invokes a colonial criminal law dating back to 1889. The ban also applies to low-rise jeans.

Last year, women took to the streets in Johannesburg to protest against assaults on women wearing mini-skirts following an attack on two women who were wearing short skirts at the Noord Street taxi rank in central Johannesburg.

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