Tension is brewing in Zimbabwe following proposal to universities to impose a dress code for female students.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission’s legal and investigative manager Ms. Delis Mazambani came up with the proposal in the wake of escalating rape cases being experienced in the country.
She said: “During the weekend, the students can then wear whatever they want, but when attending lectures, they need to be guided on how to dress and this makes it easier for lecturers to pinpoint that according to the university’s policy you are not dressed appropriately.”
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The proposal would, however, cause widespread public outbursts – many arguing that the escalating rape culture does not correlate whatsoever with what women wear, rather it is a scourge.
Zimbabwe’s Women’s Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni described the proposal as an affront to women and a form of abuse.
“We shouldn’t respect the uniform but the person, it means we are saying our men have no respect for women but uniforms,” she said.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said the proposal would be an attack on womanhood, saying: “It is a very free country and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion as this is not a directive.”
Also, SAYWHAT, a non-governmental organization, said a dress code for the students would further reinforce the dictates of patriarchy in which society was always policing the dressing of women.
“Having a dress code cannot be a sustainable way of addressing the issue, what needs to be changed are the attitudes of the perpetrators, transformation of gender norm is needed in which men can respect women and their rights irrespective of what they are wearing,” said the organization in a statement.
“The proposed solutions must not be skewed towards putting the blame on women. Having a dress code is tantamount to direct indictment that women are being sexually harassed because of the clothes they wear.
“There is limited correlation on the two as societies have witnessed that even women who dress in the so-called modesty and decent ways are sexually harassed, while others become victims of rape while dressed in long skirts and dresses,” it added.
Cases of rape have been on the rise since the beginning of the year. Women have had to bear the brunt of nursing emotional wounds after such an encounter. In neighboring South Africa, a young student Uyinene was recently raped and murdered in what sparked a #Am I next campaign.