A female student at the Law Development Center (LDC) in Uganda was barred from entering classes last Wednesday due to the length of her skirt, which school officials considered to be inappropriate. According to the BBC, Joaninne Nanyange was stopped just before entering class by two women, including a police officer, who asked her to pull her skirt as far down as possible if she wanted entry into the building.
Nanyange says she was wearing a knee-length skirt and a jacket top suitable for a formal occasion. In a Facebook post detailing the incident, she narrates her experience:
Nanyange writes that her first reaction was to laugh off the request, because it “didn’t make sense,” and she was shocked when the women told her she was denied access to the campus because her skirt was not long enough for LDC standards.
“Apparently, skirts like mine attract the boys and men that we study with and bar them from concentrating. So they could not be allowed!” she wrote.
Nanyange adds that she finds comments such as those made by the security women to be inherently sexist, even if they were made by fellow women. She fears that a society that attempts to censure women’s bodies or their choice of clothing is creating a system that makes women culpable for the actions of men who sexually harass or assault them.
She goes on to slam a controversial law dubbed the “Mini-skirt Bill” that was proposed in Uganda’s parliament in 2014. The law was meant to prohibit the wearing of mini-skirts by Ugandan women. Similar attempts at passing such laws in other parts of Africa have served to embolden perverts and sexual offenders to grope, harass, and assault women under the pretext that they asked for it, since they were “improperly” dressed.
In her Facebook post, Nanyange notes:
Our bodies have been so sexualized to point of madness and like all cases of marginalization, the victim pays the price. Why should I miss my classes because men cannot control their sexual urges (that is if they are as bad as they are portrayed)? How is that my problem? Patriarchy has been so grossly institutionalized [that] we all feel the need to legislate and pass rules controlling women’s bodies, by, among other things, creating de facto dress codes for them.
I work hard, and I manage to pay the millions of shillings required for LDC’s tuition. But I can’t access the campus to attend my classes because when my brothers look at my knees and legs, they will get erections.
Please let us live. Allow us to prosper. This nonsense needs to end.
In a later interview with the BBC, Nanyange said she believes attitudes need to change, insisting that there’s no doubt in her mind that her skirt was not too short or inappropriate.