The Ugandan government said the president has signed into law sweeping and controversial anti-pornography legislation that outlaws miniskirts and other types of revealing clothing.
The new law covers a range of issues related to pornography, including child pornography, pornographic publications and even suggestive music videos.
But what is grabbing headlines and stirring debate is the dress code. The law makes it illegal to wear revealing clothing, including tops that show too much cleavage and miniskirts, defined as anything above the knee.
Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo said Tuesday that it is now forbidden to wear any clothing that could be deemed sexually exciting.
“If you dress in such a way that you irritate the mind and excite the people then you are badly dressed; if you draw the attention of the other person outside there with a malicious purpose of exciting and stimulating him or her into sex,” he said.
Ugandan women have been speaking out against the law, which, they said, primarily affects them.
Rita Achiro of the Uganda Women’s Network, a rights advocacy group, said such legislated control over women’s bodies sets a dangerous precedent for women’s rights.
“Such laws actually take a country like Uganda backwards in regards to women’s empowerment. I do not want to look at it just as the miniskirt, but rather look at it from controlling women’s bodies, and eventually that will end up into actual total control of women,” she said.
Achiro also argued strongly against the law’s implication that the way a woman dresses incites a man to rape, pointing out that in many Ugandan cultures Western-style dress is a comparatively new phenomenon. For centuries women in these cultures wore very little clothing at all, she said, and yet rape was neither common nor tolerated.
The penalties for wearing revealing clothing remain unclear. But short skirts are a common sight in Uganda, particularly among young women in the capital. Many Ugandan women say the dress code will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.