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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Uganda mini-skirt ban: Protests after women are assaulted and forced to undress in public

Kashmira Gander

Women in Uganda have gathered in the capital Kampala to protest against a law banning the wearing of miniskirts.

Police prevented the women from marching through the streets of the capital, but officers in riot gear watched as around 200 women instead gathered outside the national theatre, BBC News reported.

One woman’s placard read: “my body my business”, while another woman held a card saying: “thou shalt not touch my miniskirt”.

The protests come amid reports that police have been forcing women to remove their skirts in public.

Over the past week, several women wearing skirts have publicly been harassed and assaulted, after the President signed an anti-pornography bill in December banning “indecent” clothing.

One of the event organisers claimed she was harassed when she went to the police headquarters to seek permission to hold the march.

“I was wearing a dress I considered official. Policeman after policeman - low-ranking, high-ranking - they each told me, 'You cannot enter this place in that miniskirt,'” Patience Akumu told the BBC.

Ms Akumu told reporters that police officers “manhandled” her and confiscated her phone when she took photos of them.

The police have since issued a statement condemning “mob…undressing” by officers.

Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lokodo, put forward the measure last year, and said that women who wore “anything above the knee” should be arrested.

The so-called "miniskirt law" was raised in Parliament on Tuesday, after the cases of assault and harrassment.

The law does not mention the term “miniskirt” outright, but bans women from exposing their breasts, buttocks and thighs, and from “dressing indecently in a manner to sexually excite”.

Executive director of the Uganda Women's Network, Rita Achiro, told the BBC that her organisation may launch legal action as the country’s constitution state guarantees both sexes are treated equally.

“Now people are more free to do it [abuse women] openly. They are going to judge women according to what they see as indecent because there are no parameters defined by law,” she said.

“That has really put women at risk in this country.”

Protests come the same week that President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill enacting harsher laws on homosexuals that have been internationally condemned.

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