To minimize women’s dressing or not? and for what?

11 Jan

So 2014 came and went. Some people were sent home, others were placed on high seats, 2014 left us with potholes that look as if there had a been a nhodo world cup all over Zimbabwe. Anyway, the story of the young lady who was stripped in the city centre needs to be revisited. Revisited not for the sake of wanting to cause agony for the young lady but to continue serious discussion around chauvinistic male attitudes, government policies to protect women and just to speak truth to power.

The events of the end of 2014 in Nairobi and Harare where women were harassed and stripped in the city centres by touts were utterly disgusting and cannot be tolerated in modern societies. Of course some will argue that these acts have happened before and debates condemning and others supporting the stupid acts have always ensued with no solution in sight.
I call the acts of stripping women by men because of their supposedly revealing skirts stupid. Yes it is idiotic to say the least. First of all, who determines what is long, what is short and what enough cover is. Men cannot be standard bearers over such. The body and the dress belong to the woman and it will be up to her to dress how she sees fit.

Three months ago I had a spat with someone on fb. I still consider that man stupid because of his warped views over this same matter which had occurred in Nairobi, Kenya. He argued that it was sinful and the bible did not allow women to dress in ways that would seduce or tempt men. What hogwash I thought. What verse and what section in the bible sanctions women’s dressing. In any case it really does not matter. The same Jesus that men of such disposition worship is the same Jesus that womenfolk worship. If it is sinful then it should between them and their God, not for any men to judge.

Based on the above, I find it appalling and distasteful that religion is invoked to suppress women in Zimbabwe. It cannot be right. What is even more dangerous for me is that the same church where women flock to every Thursday (ku china), Friday, Saturday and Sunday for everyone else remains quiet when such atrocities occur. Church leaders who are mostly men definitely have the power to voice their anger and disgust at such behaviour if they believe what is happening is wrong. To remain silent in such times for me shows that they silently want the matter to go away and also they do not believe that the touts are wrong in undressing the women in mini – skirts.

The same goes for politicians and public officials who “grace” public offices in Zimbabwe. Honestly, where was the MP for Harare Central? Where was the Commissioner General of the Police? I believe those with power – be it legal, political, religious, traditional, academic or otherwise have the wherewithal and a national duty to end this madness. Their silence for me signals doubt, fear and lack of willingness to confront the matter based on their political, religious and traditional beliefs that a woman cannot put on a mini skirt and walk around freely. This cannot be right!

There is need for more decisive action and it has to come from these people. In recent months, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya ( and President Obama of the US have come out strongly speaking against the abuse of women and young girls because of how they dress. These were responses to what was becoming a national crisis. The stances show a leadership trying to conserve a national ethos. The continued silence from Zimbabwe’s ruling party and top leadership in the opposition is stunning. I’m not too sure what other issues are so prominent that the rights of women should take a back burner. We have always seen swift responses by the authorities when police or military details are assaulted in city centres by touts. We have always seen swift responses by the police when women march in city centres on Valentine’s Day. So what is different now, that some men commit a crime of overt violence and sexual harassment and the authorities casually deal with the matter?

This nonsense of talking about decency and traditional culture is absolute hogwash. People used to wear loins around their waists before the white man came to Africa. So what culture are people trying to invoke here? This paternalistic, chauvinistic and male dominant attitude which is pervasive across the country and well executed b low lives such as touts at bus termini cannot be left unchallenged.

I do not write this because I regard women as weak or incapable of dealing with this matter. However I feel that just like the young black men being killed by the racist police elements of the US; and just like the young women of Kenya who are attacked left right and centre by touts; the women of Zimbabwe need and deserve the support of every individual until the government through its police, judiciary and parliaments recognise and uphold fully women’s rights.
More importantly, there is need for speaking truth to power. What Grace Mugabe did to Joice Mujuru on national TV and public rally noting that Joice Mujuru had been inappropriately dressed in a mini skirt was uncalled for and wrong. By saying such stuff Grace became complicit in perpetuating and condoning the vile acts of harassing and undressing women in public. I feel that at the time Grace attacked Joice Mujuru; we should have stood up and called her to order for trying to condone verbal abuse women all over Zimbabwe. By attacking Joice Mujuru on the basis of her dressing or lack thereof, Grace basically undressed each and every Zimbabwean woman and left them to the mercy of lustful and hateful men who do not seem to have anything better to do than attack female citizens on the basis of their dressing and looks.
To the young lady who was harassed in that video, I apologise. To the young man who valiantly defended her I take my hat off. Ndoti sando dzako. My wish and my request though is that this matter cannot continue to be discussed anymore. Action needs to be taken. The action needs to come from higher offices. To continue pummelling the hwindis is good for they are the perpetrators of such vile acts. However I feel it will be a shallow victory. Real gains will come when men and women of substance in churches, parliament, political parties, business etc start denouncing such acts of chauvinistic behaviour in public; when laws are clearly spelt out to protect women’s rights and they are implemented by law enforcement agents. The structural roots of such evil which stem from misguided religious and traditional beliefs need to be debased and it has to happen now.

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