Policing Women’s Garb From L.A. to Namibia

The policing of women's bodies is happening across the globe. (Google Images)

The policing of women’s bodies is happening across the globe. (Google Images)

Writing for The Root, The Burton Wire‘s Editor-in-Chief Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. examines the phenomena of policing women’s bodies through dress codes across the globe.

(The Root) — With all that is going on in the world, one would think that what women are wearing would be of the least concern. We’re still dealing with a troubled economy, an obstructionist government, worldwide police brutality (the recent dragging death of a Mozambican taxi driver in South Africa) and so-called adults calling children out of their name under the guise of humor. With all the madness in the world, why is it that we continue to be fixated on what women wear?

In December 2012, 40 girls were arrested for wearing miniskirts in Rundu, Namibia. The outcry over the incident was exacerbated by Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga’s proclamation that women wearing miniskirts would continue to be subject to arrest because “alluring dress provokes rape” and is “un-African.”

It appears that the inspector general hasn’t taken a women’s studies course or been paying attention to the global anti-slut-shaming movement — a title I happen to loathe, but I completely understand the movement. Adult women should be able to wear clothing that suits them without fear of being sexually assaulted by men.

Ndeitunga’s cluelessness might get a pass, except that we have known for decades now that rape is about power and violence, not clothing. If someone is intent on raping another person — male or female, I might add — then he needs no provocation whatsoever, particularly in the form of dress.

In a recent January 2013 crime report on rape in Windhoek (the capital city of Namibia), the victims included a 28-year-old woman who was raped after being tricked into helping move furniture into a building; a 24-year-old woman who was raped when using the restroom; an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old girl who were forced into marriage to an elder, a case of statutory rape; and a woman whose husband raped her after she declined to have sex with him. There were nine reports in all, and a miniskirt was not mentioned in any of them. As recently as last week, a 7-year-old boy was allegedly raped by a 23-year-old man. The assertion that miniskirts provoke rape is a false one.

Read the post in its entirety at TheRoot.com.

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Namibia: Reactions to Ban on Mini-Skirts

Namibians have been reacting to a ban on mini-skirts, arguing that the law is sexist. (Google Images)

written by Kaitlin Higgins 

Margreth Nunuhe of New Era is reporting that, in Namibia, women will soon be arrested for wearing skirts that are deemed by police to be too “short and revealing.” After this statement from Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga, reactions on social media networks were high. While Ndeitunga claimed that the stipulation is to preserve and “underline the importance of culture,” many respondents have been wondering how in touch with African culture the Inspector General is. Some pointed to the even more revealing dress of some young people today, and others have argued that if the legislation was truly in the name of outlawing un-African clothing, “we must go back to our original African theme of wearing hand made clothes from animal skin such as the Himbas.” Likewise, many agree that such a law is sexist and oppressive and have organized to wear mini-skirts in protest this Friday.

Nunuhe writes:

“Amanda Kaipiti Utjiua said the banning of mini-skirts was oppression towards women, a sexist view and a way of shifting focus from serious issues at hand such as finding Shanduka. ‘We have a lot of things that are unAfrican including the Bible and Christianity which was brought by the missionaries, the clothes, means of transportation and all kinds of machines. Mind you people in the past (we) use(d) to wear clothes made from animal skin, use(d) to believe in ancestors and used to travel by foot or donkey even on cattle’s (sic),’ she said, adding that we have passed the stage of transformation from traditional societies to a modern society many years ago.

‘Holy Saudi Arabia. Why is it that when ‘African culture’ is invoked to justify a repressive measure, it sounds so much like rightwing Christianity? The San and Himba are also African last time I checked. Arresting women for wearing mini-skirts? That’s not a good sign people,’ wrote Rob Parker. “

Read more at New Era and AllAfrica.com.

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