We need to be worried. This month alone, at least three cases of murder of university girls have been reported in the different parts of the country.
There is something peculiar about these deaths. The victims have been university students, raped before they were killed.
Many theories abound about these murders. Some have it that this is handwork of serial killers. Others attribute these deaths to crimes of passion.
They claim that the victims engage with multiple partners, take different men’s money and yet refuse to meet their side of bargain. In university speak, they are ‘detoothers’ or gold diggers, who take men’s money and refuse to sleep with them.
So, the disappointed men have decided to hire thugs to rape them and then finally kill them. Police has not confirmed any of these theories. But at one time, in the early 2000s, there was a serial killer who specialized in killing young women whom he would pick from bus stops or around universities.
However, as we are reeling from those worrying and shocking events of murder, an equally distasteful trend has emerged. An apparently long arm of moral police has been unofficially unleashed on the streets of Kampala – just like we were once surprised by the abrupt emergence of the infamous kiboko squad.
When government decided to bring the Anti-Pornography Bill, people labelled it miniskirt bill. And this because it originally had clauses which prohibited a person from wearing certain clothes which didn’t match up to certain lengths.
After deriding the clauses and a spirited fight from women activists, it appears the minister for Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo, abandoned the offending clauses. The newly-signed Ant-Pornography Act has nothing to do with mini skirts. In fact the law defines, creates and prohibits the offence of pornography and in the offence, there is nothing like a prohibition of the wearing of miniskirts.
Despite absence of an elaborate law on miniskirts, a gang of zealots, especially boda boda men, street boys in downtown Kampala, together with the touts in the different taxi parks, have arrogated to themselves a duty to undress girls or women they think have dressed inappropriately, or offend the anti-pornography law.
When the Kabaka of Buganda visited Kayunga, a gang of young people nearly undressed a woman who, in their estimation, had inappropriately dressed as to offend the Buganda culture and presence of the king. For them a proper dress code for such an occasion was a busuuti. Fortunately, some sober members of the crowd that had turned up to receive the Kabaka rescued her.
What is even more worrying about these disgusting acts of these ‘puritans’ is the subtle support of the police officers. The recent case was that of a girl who was attacked by a gang of boda boda riders and other idle street boys at Mabirizi plaza. They tore her clothes, including her under garments.
While all these were happening the police was looking on idly! They didn’t come to the rescue of the girl. The attackers claim that mini clothes offend the law (which law, I wonder) and their culture. Ironically, most of the cultures I know of this country emphasize respect for women. I am not aware of any culture, which recommends stripping a woman in the streets.
I would like to assume that since they did it in Kampala, then those whose culture was offended were Baganda. But the Baganda I know are so cultured and very respectful of women, in that if they felt offended, they would have given her another garment to cover the offending parts instead of stripping her.
So, I don’t believe that those ridiculous acts were representative of the Ganda culture. If anything, the culture of dressing from head to toe is foreign. In Uganda we have communities that only cover their private parts or nothing at all.
And that is their culture and when you visit their territories, they don’t force you to undress and look like them. One would have thought, then, that appearing in those areas fully dressed would offend such cultures but it is not the case. So, whose culture here is being offended?
You could also argue that since skimpy clothes offend these zealots’ ‘culture’, then the sight of a naked woman is even worse. But these so-called cultural puritans prefer to look at the naked woman than one with some short clothes on!
This logic beats me. The police is usually eager to rescue petty street thieves from the mob but clearly lazy to rescue a woman from gangs of men. I was worried by what I heard some women say they would use as a defence strategy. They say that since police has failed to protect them, they may arm themselves with portable knives in their bags.
When attacked, they would rather draw a knife into one of them than look on hopelessly. But seriously, police and the state need to protect the citizens from such acts. First, the minister for Ethics needs to make it clear that there is no forbidding the wearing of miniskirts!
Two, the police should be on the lookout for such people who undress women. Kampala cannot be known for undressing women. That is not a good attribute especially knowing that there are very few good things to write about Kampala. We may think that these are cultural puritans, when, actually, they are a bunch of perverts!
The author is the finance director, The Observer Media Ltd.
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