On Monday, in Nairobi, a woman walking past a taxi rank was, first, catcalled and, then, attacked and stripped. A passerby videotaped the event, posted it to jambonewspot, and then it went, if not viral, spiral. The men called the woman “Jezebel” and accused her of “tempting” them. For the crime of temptation, she was beaten.
Kenyans have roundly condemned the action. Two twitter campaigns have emerged, the larger #MyDressMyChoice and its sister #StripMeNot. The Kilimani Mums leapt into action, and have organized a protest in Uhuru Park, next Monday, November 17. Here’s their message:
“On November 7th, 2014, a woman was stripped by touts at Embassava Bus terminal.
“This morning we as Kilimani Mums met and decided that we shall hold a peaceful procession to Accra Road on Monday 17th November at 10am. We shall go and deliver a message to the touts who stripped our sister that it is wrong and a woman has a right to dress the way she wants.
“We urge you and your daughters to join and support us. We will meet on Monday at 10am at Uhuru Park and march peacefully to Embassava. This is our chance to stand together as women and deliver a message to our country that sexual violence will not be tolerated.
“All our welcome to this walk- support your sisters, daughters, mothers and wives. join us Monday at 10am!”
At the beginning of this year, women in Uganda launched the #SavetheMiniSkirt, in response to threats by the national government to criminalize women’s attire. Last year, women of Namibia responded to a similar `national’ urge. The year before that, the spark was a video of an assault on teenage girls wearing miniskirts, at the Noord taxi rank in Johannesburg.
This is not an “African” phenomenon. In 2012, for example, India, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Nepal, France, and the United States engaged in State policing of women’s fashion. For example, in New York, transgender women, and especially transgender women of color, were routinely stopped, in so-called stop-and-frisk operations. Their crime? Crossdressing.
In the Netherlands, it’s the blackface season. Everywhere else, it’s business as usual, which means, from State policy to mutatu bus stops and taxi ranks to university and grade schools campuses, a war on women’s bodies, autonomy, and integrity by criminalization of attire. #SavetheMiniskirt. #StripMeNot. #MyDressMyChoice.
* Image Credit: “Maggie, Nairobi” by Carlo Alberto Danna on Flickr.