Thursday, July 25, 2019

Swaziland MP calls for action against women wearing ‘skimpy clothes’ to church

A member of parliament in Swaziland / eSwatini called on the Ministry of Home Affairs to speak out against women who wear ‘skimpy clothes’ to church. He said they sometimes disturbed pastors when they preached the Word of God.

Vulimpompi Nhleko, the MP for Nkwene, in the conservative kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III, said the women would sexually arouse males in churches.

He was speaking during a debate in the House of Assembly. The Swazi Observer reported, ‘He said some women were commended for having beautiful bodies and then decide to show off those bodies, which would then cause mayhem in the church. Nhleko urged the home affairs ministry to guard against that.’

The newspaper added, ‘The ladies’ tendencies, according to MP Nhleko, would sometimes disturb pastors when they preached the Word of God.’

The Observer reported, ‘Minister of Home Affairs Princess Lindiwe stated that it was important for people to wear decently in churches.’

Women across Swaziland constantly face verbal and physical attacks over the clothes they wear. In late 2012 Swaziland Police announced that women found wearing a mini-skirt in public would be arrested and face a fine or imprisonment. Swazi Police official spokesperson Wendy Hleta told the Times Sunday newspaper that it would only take one complaint for a woman in a mini-skirt to be arrested. She said police would use a law dating from 1889.

She was commenting after police stopped a march by women protesting at the harassment they received from men when they wore mini-skirts or other clothes such as low-cut jeans or crop tops that displayed their stomachs. The men wanted them to wear clothes they considered more appropriate to Swazi tradition. 

In the course of the interview Hleta said that men might be tempted to rape women who wore skimpy clothes.

By coincidence around the same date the Times of Swaziland published a letter from a woman who recounted a trip she and her female friend made to Manzini police station to report a crime. She was wearing a miniskirt and her friend shorts. 

She said five male officers verbally attacked them. Among the comments made by the police officers were, ‘You b******, go and get dressed or remove yourselves from our presence. 

‘Can’t you hear that we are telling you to go and dress appropriately first? Or have you come to solicit here? This is not a prostitution site.’ And , ‘Go before we do you harm.’

In a separate case, at the national election in 2013 Mana Mavimbela, aged 18, drew international attention when she tried to have herself nominated to stand in the primary election for the House of Assembly. The official presiding officer, employed by the Elections and Boundaries Commission, refused to allow her to do so because she was dressed in jeans.

Mavimbela was not the only woman discriminated against at the nominations because she was wearing pants. Fakazile Luhlanga of Ndvwabangeni in the Mhlangatane constituency was also not allowed permission to nominate a candidate as she was wearing cargo pants. 

Local media reported Luhlanga saying she was told that she was dressed like a man and would be a bad influence to the community members as they would want to emulate her.

Some chiefs across Swaziland imposed a ban on women wearing trousers, shorts or mini-skirts at nomination centres. Chief Petros Dvuba of Mpolonjeni in Mbabane, the kingdom’s capital, said people who would be going to the nominations should dress properly and show respect as it was King Mswati’s exercise.  He told local media, ‘Even those who have relaxed hair should cover their heads when going to that place.’ 

In a separate incident away from the election, Nhlonipho Nkamane Mkhatswa, chief of Lwandle in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, reportedly stripped a woman of her clothing in the middle of a street in full view of the public because she was wearing trousers.

Also, three women in Dvokolwako in Swaziland were summoned by ‘traditional authorities’ for wearing trousers after elders in the area had banned them. One woman said someone reported her after she was spotted wearing jeans as she was walking to the shops. Another woman was said to be wearing pants at her home when she was charged.

See also

Woman in pants banned from election

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