The Terror In Uganda Deepens, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 28 2014 @ 11:00am

In addition to signing the “kill the gays” law, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni approved an extraordinarily sweeping “anti-pornography” bill last week. “Pornography,” in this case, includes skimpy summer clothes:

According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, [the law] bans “behavior or form of communication or speech or information or literature or publication in whole or publication in part or news story or entertainment or stage play or broadcast or music or dance or art or graphic or picture or photography or video recording or leisure activity or show or exhibition.” Ugandan media has largely focused on the possibility that the law would be a de facto ban on revealing clothing and has dubbed it the “miniskirt law.” … [I]f a Ugandan stages a play that includes sexualized, under-clothed thighs, she and the journalist who writes a review could both be locked up. Breaking the law could incur penalties of up to seven years in prison.

One consequence of the new law: women, like gays, now find themselves at increased risk of mob violence. Consider:

More than 40 women have been stripped naked in the different towns of Uganda, including the capital Kampala, in the last three days over misconception that they are breaking the law by wearing miniskirts. …

[A]n association of Ugandan women in parliament has lamented provisions of the new anti-pornography’s law that deals with women’s dressing. Rosemary Nyakikongolo, vice chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, claims “parliament rushed to pass the anti-pornography law.” She said the attacks on women are because “MPs passed the law [without] adequate public consultation.”

Earlier this week, police stopped 200 women from marching in Kampala to protest the law. In fact, if not for women’s earlier activism, the law would have been much worse:

Ever since Simon Lokodo, State Minister for Ethics and Integrity and lead proponent for a ban on miniskirts, announced that the Anti-Pornography Bill had been signed into law, women have faced violence, especially in taxi ranks. According to Lokodo, “If your miniskirt falls within the ambit of this definition then I am afraid you will be caught up by the law.”

Except that, despite Lokodo’s most fervent efforts, the miniskirt ban actually never made it into the final legislation. Women across Uganda shut it down. From #SaveTheMiniSkirt online campaigns to Save the Miniskirt parties to formal lobbying to organizing in the streets and off, women shut it down. Women understood that the issue of their clothing was nothing more or less than an attack on women’s autonomy. For Rita Aciro Lakor, the executive director of Uganda Women’s Network (Uwonet), “It’s about going back to controlling women. They’ll start with clothes. The next time they’re going to remove the little provisions in the law that promote and protect women’s rights.”