Today, dressed like this, I went to the Law Development Centre to attend classes. Unlike all other days, I saw two women seated right outside the Centre’s gate, one dressed in a Khaki Police uniform. It was an unusual sight and I thought there was something or someone epic on campus.
I got off the boda boda and walked towards the gate. The uniformed woman flagged me down and being the law abiding citizen that I am, I stopped. She asked me to pull my skirt down to see how far down it could go. I burst into laughter. Her request didn’t make sense. She insisted, quite seriously. I told her that was the farthest my skirt could go and there was no need to pull it. The other woman, ever with a very satisfied grin, told me I could not access the campus because my skirt was not long enough for LDC standards.
I was shocked. Yes. Shocked. Seeing the bewilderment on my face, the two women laboured to explain. Apparently, skirts like mine attract the boys and men that we study with and bar them from concentrating. So they could not be allowed!!!!!!
During induction week, the Deputy Director of the Centre, a woman, told us we shouldn’t wear clothes that distract ‘our brothers’ most of whom are married. I posted about it here. When I got the so-called rules of LDC, I read the section about dress-code and it’s ridiculous. They even prescribe the colour of socks that men should wear! Having dealt with Ugandan systems, including courts which should know better, I know that until something directly affects you, you are not allowed to complain about it. This far, these rules have not been implemented. Now that they have, I am allowed to complain.
A few years ago, 2014 to be specific, Parliament was debating a law that was dubbed the ‘mini-skirt Bill’ for its apparent prohibition of mini-skirts. As would be expected, the Bill caused an uproar among opponents and proponents alike. On one side, there was anger about the ridiculousness of the law along with its discriminatory and sexist undertones; while on the other side there was excitement over the law’s presentation of fertile ground to ridicule and dehumanise women just for the fun of it.
Activists stood up against the law and some of these provisions were removed. But the damage was done. Women had been attacked. Women had been beaten. Women had been undressed. We were livid.
But how can we be angry with boda boda men attacking and undressing women for wearing short things when we have institutions that we hold to higher levels of understanding and responsibility fostering cultures that say women are only as appropriate as men say they are? How can we, in good conscience, blame Minister (Ronald) Kibuule for saying women that dress indecently should be raped when we have an institution like LDC barring female students from class so the male ones can concentrate? Our bodies have been so sexualised to points of madness and like all cases of marginalisation, the victim pays the price. Why should I miss my classes because men cannot control their sexual urges (that is if they are as bad as they are portrayed)? How is that my problem? Patriarchy has been so grossly institutionalised we all feel the need to legislate and pass rules controlling women’s bodies, by among other things creating de facto dress codes for them.
I Work hard, and I manage to pay the millions of shillings required for LDC’s tuition. But I can’t access the campus to attend my classes because when ‘my brothers’ look at my knees and legs, they will get erections.
Please let us live. Allow us to prosper. This nonsense needs to end.
Credit: the article was copied from Joaninne Nanyange’s facebook page
The writer is the Project Officer at Human Rights awareness and Promotion Forum