The government of Uganda has issued a circular, warning all civil servants against indecent dressing.
The circular, which was published on Tuesday, forbids all non-uniformed public servants from wearing certain attire. Those who fail to adhere to the dress code will be disciplined, according to the BBC.
“We were approached with complaints that, specifically lady officers, were dressing in an unacceptable manner, with mini-skirts and showing body parts which otherwise generally should be covered in Ugandan society,” Ugandan Human Resources Director in the Ministry of Public Service Adah Muwanga said.
Muwanga added that it is the ministry’s responsibility to offer guidance on administration and management of the public service.
What Is Decent Dressing?
According to the circular, female civil servants should not show cleavage nor wear brightly colored nails, braids, hair extensions, sleeveless and transparent blouses. They have also been prohibited from wearing any tight-fitting clothes, and their dresses and skirts must be at least knee-length.
Men must wear long-sleeved shirts, jackets, and ties, with trousers not being tight-fitting. Their hair must be well-groomed and generally kept short, and they must not wear open shoes during working hours, except on health grounds.
The circular further states that fashion accessories, such as jewelry, must be modest, while fingernails should not be more than 3 centimeters long.
The announcement has caused a serious backlash on social media, with some people criticizing the government for wasting time focusing on “irrelevant” issues:
A sad day in Uganda when people are starving as Parliament discusses their Western dress code. Depressing.
— Juliet Nakato (@Mulongo77) July 4, 2017
A Conservative Society
The controversial circular was derived from a public service standing order on dress code that was created in 2010.
It is one of the many domineering decrees that have become quite common in Uganda under the reign of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country for more than three decades.
In 2014, the Ugandan parliament passed an anti-pornography law barring women from wearing mini-skirts. As he introduced the legislation in parliament, Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo proposed that women who wore “anything above the knee” should be arrested.
This law, which caused a lot of public outcry, was preceded by another controversial parliamentary bill seeking to toughen penalties for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transvestite community in Uganda.
Previously referred to as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, was passed by parliament in December 2013, with the previous clause of “life imprisonment” being replaced with the “death penalty.”
Local and international human rights crusaders have often criticized these “draconian laws,” saying they put vulnerable members of the society at risk of being attacked by those who support them.