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Swaziland outlaws miniskirts, says they provoke rape

Swaziland outlaws miniskirts, says they provoke rape

Women in Swaziland risk arrest if they wear miniskirts or tops which expose part of their stomach as they will be violating moral standards, a police spokesperson has said.

She also said women in the deeply conservative kingdom make it easier for rapists by wearing mini-skirts.  Last month, police reportedly blocked women in mini-skirts marching against rape in the second city, Manzini.

Thousands of bare-breasted young Swazi women paraded in front of their king to celebrate chastity and unity, dismissing criticism of the lavish ceremony

"The act of a rapist is made easy, because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women," Wendy Hleta was quoted as saying.

Offenders face a six-month jail term under the ban, which invokes a colonial criminal act dating back to 1889.

The ban also applies to low-rise jeans.

"They will be arrested," she said.

Hleta said women wearing revealing clothing were responsible for assaults or rapes committed against them.

"I have read from the social networks that men and even other women have a tendency of 'undressing people with their eyes'. That becomes easier when the clothes are hugging or are more revealing," Hleta said.

Traditional costumes

However, the ban does not apply to traditional costumes worn by young women during ceremonies like the annual Reed Dance, where the ruling King Mswati III chooses a wife.

 

During the ceremony, beaded traditional skirts worn by young bare-breasted virgins cover only the front, leave the back exposed. Underwear is not allowed.

 

In 2000, the government introduced a law requiring school girls aged 10 years old and above to wear knee-length skirts to curb promiscuity as part of attempts to halt the spread of Aids.  The country has a population of more than 1.2 million and one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in the world.

 

'Undressing people with their eyes'

Ms Hleta said the 1889 law had not been enforced recently, but police wanted to alert women about its existence after receiving complaints from some men in Manzini about women wearing mini-skirts.

 

Anyone arrested and guilty of "immorality" under the Crimes Act of 1889 could receive a fine of up to $10 (£6) or a jail-term of up to six months if they failed to pay the fine, she said.  Women should be careful about wearing revealing clothes, the police spokeswoman said.

 

"We do not encourage that women should be harmed, but at the same time people should note acceptable conduct of behaviour," Ms Hleta is quoted by the privately owned Times of Swaziland newspaper as saying.

 

"The act of the rapist is made easy because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women," she said.

 

Women who wear "skimpy clothes" also draw unnecessary attention to themselves, Ms Hleta said.

 

"I have read from the social networks that men and even other women have a tendency of 'undressing people with their eyes'. That becomes easier when the clothes are hugging or are more revealing," Ms Hleta is quoted as saying.

 

However, the law excluded exposure of the body due to breast feeding and wearing cultural regalia, she said. Swaziland is a patriarchal society, ruled by sub-Saharan Africa's only absolute monarch, King Mswati III.  He has 13 wives and is often accused of leading a flamboyant lifestyle.

 

But in a move that was widely welcomed by rights groups, Swaziland's Ellinah Wamukoya was last month consecrated as the first woman bishop in Africa by the Anglican church.

 

The law was enforced after a march by women and young girls last month calling for protection against a spate of rapes in the impoverished kingdom, almost entirely surrounded by South Africa.

 

According to ;a media report, the march was blocked by police.