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.
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