Warring Perspectives on The Female Dress Code

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By Julie Kobusingye

On the Street

A few women have been harassed or undressed in town because of the way they are dressed. How bad is the situation if it has come to this? Is this law protecting or suppressing people’s rights? The right to freedom of wear or are some individuals using this law just to humiliate others?

According to Uganda’s new strict dress code passed on 4th July 2017 to civil servants; women will not be allowed to show any cleavage, wear pant-suits or any tight fitting clothing. All dresses or skirts must at least be at knee length in the name of decency.

This new dress code caused a lot of mixed reactions from the civil service, civil society and trended on social media the day it was announced.             

Uganda being a country with conservative roots, lets access what ‘indecent’ dressing means in different viewpoints.

The Government’s Viewpoint

On 9th March 2014, the Observer newspaper reported that Father Lokodo, a Catholic Priest and the Minister of Ethics and Integrity in the government of Uganda said on KFM Radio that the ban on miniskirts was to regulate immorality in all its manifestations.  “Look at how our women are dressing, showing off their breasts, and they are almost naked,” he said.  He added that such women are immoral and are enticing men to rape them.

A few years later in July 2017, the Ministry of Public Service imposed a strict dress code for male and female civil servants. Aljazeera, an international news network, highlighted that this new dress code was aimed at controlling women’s bodies because women were more limited than men.

The Spiritual Viewpoint

The Spiritual Science Research Foundation (SSRF) carried out research using the sixth sense under the guidance of His Holiness, Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale, a Spiritual Leader and Scholar of the Hindu persuasion. According to the SSRF research, spiritual vibrations are emanating from various types of clothes based on aspects such as color, shape, and material. In this research, it was discovered that clothes protect one from negative energy.

According to the Ugandan Christian news of 29th June 2017, the dress code of girls has been a controversy over the past couple of years. They go ahead to say that a child of God has the obligation to dress correctly, go to the right places and have the right friendships.

The Pop Culture Attitude

Fashion activists on the other hand disagree and say every woman shouldn’t be ashamed to wear whatever she wants.

One commentator in a public debate said it’s about the freedom of expression, “If a woman chooses to wear a short skirt, she has the natural right to do so without harassment or fear of bodily harm. If a man is unable to restrain from committing rape because he sees a woman in some item of provocative clothing, then he needs to blindfold himself anytime he is in public.”

Another commentator stated, “Whatever your style, it is your personal style, and if it makes you happy, what others think of your choice in outfit or bikini is not relevant as long as you are comfortable in what you’re wearing. Whether it is your outfit choices, your bodily decisions, or even your drinking/dietary habits, as long as no one is put in danger by your actions, then it should not matter to anyone else.”

The Cultural Irony

To seek a non-adulterated perspective on Ugandan cultural dress code, take a look at our culture and its related traditional dances and how revealing the cultural dress really is, some are bra-less and short to say the least. The question then comes up; why isn’t the cultural wear deemed indecent and yet is accepted as right well as modern clothing in the same design is seen as indecent?

It’s About You

At the end of the day, everyone has to make up their own mind on what they think is decent or indecent dressing within their own limits.  When choosing what to wear, they should bear in mind how they want to be perceived. We should all have the freedom to dress as we please but at the end of the day, we are accountable for the perceptions we put out about ourselves. In many cases, the way we dress tells a lot about who we are. Therefore, dress however you want, but mind the occasion.

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