It’s been an interesting week in Uganda. On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law that instituted harsh punishments for those convicted of engaging in “aggravated homosexuality” and “promoting homosexuality,” and today police in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, stopped a scheduled march by hundreds of women protesting the nation’s miniskirt ban.
The law, initially an anti-pornography bill, was signed by President Museveni on February 19, and prohibits “indecent” dressing by women. Although the legislation does not specifically outlaw miniskirts, it does forbid women from “revealing their thighs, breasts and buttocks and from dressing indecently in a manner to sexually excite.”
According to Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, women wearing “anything above the knee” should be arrested.
Since the bill was signed several Ugandan women wearing short skirts have reported being harassed and “publicly undressed” by angry mobs of men that attempt to shame them for wearing “lewd” clothing.
“Women are being undressed simply because they are putting on little skirts, tight trousers or leggings,” said Isabella Akitang, one of the women participating in the protest.
“There is no justification for any violence against women, for rape.”
To pushback against the law, hundreds of Ugandan women planned a protest march, but were stopped by police. Instead, they demonstrated outside the national theater holding signs that read “Thou shall not touch my mini-skirt,” “My body, my business,” and “My boobs, thighs, breasts are not ‘irritants.’”
Rita Achiro, executive director of the Uganda Women’s Network, said the new law gives men more of an excuse to abuse women.
“Now people are more free to do it openly. They are going to judge women according to what they see as indecent because there are no parameters defined by law,” she said.
She added: “That has really put women at risk in this country.”