The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Caution, Confusion Greet Miniskirt Law

Photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF
The Uganda Anti-Pornography law to target media content more (file photo).

Days after signing the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 into law, The Observer has noted a change in the revellers' dress codes in the city.

A trip around town on Friday night showed that women's hemlines had dropped towards the knees. At YMCA, which attracts lots of women for the Friday Night Lights, most women played safe with jeans.

Sandra Mbabazi says she has been putting on short skirts almost all her life, but on this occasion at the Serena, she was wearing a skirt, just above the knees. Her plan was to be cautious during the day but wear her mini at night.

"One can't put on something long for club. They make you look like a nun. Some people have got good legs, how will they show them off'?" she asked rhetorically, before adding, "I can't even put on a pair of pants. It has to be a miniskirt."

For writer Mildred Apenyo, the new law will not change her dress code.

"How I dress, what I watch and read is my business. That will not change until I decide that it changes," she said.

"We have rape all over the place, molestation is as common as pimples and yet instead of our anti-pornography law putting strict penalties in place against street molesters they are there eyeing hemlines."

But others were more cautious, especially after the Friday incident, where a woman at Kisekka market was literally stripped naked, for wearing a skirt that the mob considered too exciting. Indeed, finding a miniskirt-clad woman during the day proved a hard task on Saturday.

However, The Observer has established that the new law has nothing to do with the length or shortness of women's dresses.

Although the initial draft bill sought to restrict women's dress freedoms, the law that was ultimately passed targets media organisations that show what is deemed to be pornographic material.

And this includes images "of a person engaged in real or [simulated] explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primary sexual excitement."

The apparent misreading of the law could be blamed on Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo. He suggested on February 18 the law would ultimately help fight indecent dressing.

"If you are dressed in something that irritates the mind and excites other people especially of the opposite sex, you are dressed in wrong attire and please hurry up and change," Lokodo was quoted as having told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre.

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