Here’s the ‘other’ news from Uganda this week. Dateline: Kampala: “Police have warned the public against undressing women whom they perceive to be indecently dressed, saying the Anti-Pornography law is not operational yet.” Yet.
Ever since Simon Lokodo, State Minister for Ethics and Integrity and lead proponent for a ban on miniskirts (that’s him above), 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.”
Control. Protection. These are familiar terms to women who have struggled against the State’s attempt to rein them in, from New York to Jakarta to Kampala and beyond. The discreteness of the discourse serves to cover up the heart and soul of the operation, which is violence and terror, all in the name of protecting women.
So here is the reality of the Anti-Pornography Law 2014. There is no ban on miniskirts. Yet women university students are raped and murdered. Yet women across the country are brutally assaulted in public by crowds of men, stripped, sometimes naked, and then further assaulted. And a nation, and a world, asking, “Why are Ugandans killing, undressing” their daughters and sisters? And the police warn the law is not operational yet.