Legislature and Women: One country’s Anti-Pornography Bill

So on December 19th, Uganda’s Parliament passed the Anti-Pornography Bill. This Bill was first introduced in 2011 and is colloquially referred to as “The Mini Skirt Bill”.

This Bill seeks to create the offense of pornography which has become an insidious social problem. Pornography is defined in this Bill and it is prohibited because of the dangers it poses to individuals and families and communities. One of the dangers it poses is that it fuels sexual crimes against women and children including rape, child molestation and incest.

I really wish I just made that quote up, but I didn’t. This bill was created to protect women and children and when it was passed, people were actually celebrating! They called it a “Christmas present”.

The Bill targets communication (audio speech, print media, broadcast), music, fashion, art, dance, etc. It defines pornography as anything that is enticing and any show of “sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or genitalia”. If signed into law, the Bill will mean no Beyonce and most music videos- international and national- on Ugandan TV and one could get 10 years imprisonment for enticing a man with her dance moves or her mini-skirt.

This piece from BBC that was published in April has interesting quotes from the minister behind this Bill.

“Any attire which exposes intimate parts of the human body, especially areas that are of erotic function, is outlawed. Anything above the knee is outlawed. If a woman wears a miniskirt, we will arrest her,” pronounced the minister in a confusing bid to preserve the nation’s modesty.

What about the men, you ask? Will their tight tees and sexy abs entice you enough to earn them a spot in jail?

Women, he alleged, should not wear provocative clothing and men, he [the minister] says, are not usually the “object of attraction and can go shirtless” on the beach.

This Bill is completely ridiculous and Uganda’s Parliament even more ridiculous. I feel that it is this kind of attitude- the “control women”- that is at the heart of sex assault. That the Bill believes itself to actually reduce sex crimes, well..

There are so many problems with this kind of legislature but what is the most problematic is the reception it got in the country. The majority of people were very excited, calling it a Christmas gift, saying the women and children of the country needed it and how culture was going to the drain because of westernization. [Of course no one is saying that in most Ugandan cultures, as an unmarried female, for example, I should be displaying my body at the most advantageous positions whenever possible and join courtship dances where boobs and behinds fly about in what are designed to be enticing dance moves.]

This same country had a Minister go on record saying that he had advised the Police Chief to always ask for dresscode when a sexual crime was reported. He said that some of the women were “asking for it.” This was a Minister that works under the country’s Ministry of Gender.

Not asking for it

It seems like something that should be obvious. But apparently not.

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