7 March 2016

Zimbabwe: Sex Workers in School Uniforms Spark Outrage

Jah Prayzah's video, Eriza, featuring vivacious dancer Lady Storm donning a school uniform appears to have inspired a new fashion trend among sex workers who have taken to wearing skimpy school uniforms to "work".

The fashion has now sparked outrage among Zimbabweans who have expressed anger and disgust at the abuse of formal school wear, which they say exposes children to prostitution and other vices associated with flesh peddling.

Social commentators too have condemned the "new fashion trend" calling for its immediate banning and for the arrest of anybody seen abusing children's school wear. They have called on law-enforcement agents to move to arrest women who have become a common sight in public drinking places wearing school uniforms.

"It was wrong in the first place to encourage the use of school uniforms by these popular musicians because it then appears like society condones such behaviour," said a teacher at a high school in Chitungwiza.

"It began with the abuse of military uniforms, now they are taking it too far, allowing this dangerous abuse of girls' school uniform. What then distinguishes between a pupil and a prostitute?"

The video, Eriza, from Jah Prayzah's DVD album Jerusarema features the lanky musician, Lady Storm and the cast clad in school uniforms. The Tsviriyo-hitmaker who is renowned for wearing military regalia on stage, sometimes holds live shows while dressed in school uniform.

Former sociology lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe Yotamu Chirwa said such abuse of school wear should be banned.

"From a sociological perspective, it should be banned. Dressing in school uniforms insinuates that these prostitutes are pure like schoolchildren," said Chirwa.

"It also misleads pupils into believing that immoral behaviour is good. Even those who manufacture such uniforms should be punished. It stigmatises pupils who wear uniforms similar to those worn by these prostitutes."

Rebecca Chisamba, popularly known as Mai Chisamba, said women who were wearing school uniforms in beer outlets were tarnishing the image of the education system.

"These women are putting the names of the schools into disrepute. A school uniform is just like a military, police or church uniform and must be treated with esteem," said Mai Chisamba.

"A school is a place of honour and associated with intelligent and good behaviour so when people go to the bars clad in school uniforms then something is wrong. We have to respect school uniforms the same way we do military and police uniforms."

"A mother who goes to Ruwadzano [Holy Thursday] cannot beat her child while wearing church uniform because she respects the uniform. That kind of honour should be accorded to school uniforms as well. I think we should have laws that protect school wear, including logos."

Mai Chisamba, however, said she saw nothing wrong in Jah Prayzah's video, Eriza.

"Jah Prayzah was trying to be creative as an artist, so he brought this uniform thing as someone who wanted to entertain. People who are wearing these uniforms are the ones to blame and must be stopped," Mai Chisamba said.

She blamed beer outlet operators for the rot.

"Why do they allow such people into their bars? In the past clubs and bars used to have dress codes, but today rangove rengenya remvemve [it has gone to the dogs]," she said.

However, police spokesperson Senior Commissioner Charity Charamba said although a school uniform was a specific design for clothing designated for school, there was no law forbidding the wearing of uniforms in undesignated places.

"There is no law that forbids the wearing of school uniforms in public places, beer outlets included," she said. "The law can take its course when they are issues to do with indecent exposure."

She said it was up to Parliament to craft laws that forbid the wearing of school uniforms in public places.

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