Thursday, February 27, 2020

Swaziland court threatens woman, 19, with jail for wearing miniskirt in public

A 19-year-old woman in Swaziland (eSwatini) was sentenced to three months in jail with the option of a fine for wearing a miniskirt in public. 

It happened in Luvumisa, a town near the border with South Africa.

The Times of eSwatini reported she was stopped on the street by police and told to change her clothes. She was seen about two hours later still wearing the miniskirt and was arrested.

She appeared at court in Luvumisa and was sentenced to three months jail with an option of an E300 fine. 

The Times reported the court was told the woman’s underwear was visible under the skirt.

It is a stated policy in Swaziland to arrest women who wear miniskirts.

In late 2012 Swaziland Police announced that women found wearing a miniskirt 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 miniskirt 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 miniskirts 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 July 2019, Vulimpompi Nhleko, the member of parliament for Nkwene, urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to condemn women who wore ‘skimpy’ clothes to church. He spoke during a debate in the Swazi House of Assembly.

See also

Woman in pants banned from election

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