Elders in Kotido district have called for a ban on short skirts, tight clothing, and trousers among women employed in the public service. They say that the dress code is disrespectful and immoral.
And John Bosco Akore, the secretary of the Kotido Elders Council, told URN that skirts that do not go below the knee are indecent and, if not stopped, will erode cultural values among the younger generation in Karamoja. He blamed the dress code on the acceptance of other tribes into the region.
The Karimojong used to walk around naked, but in recent years they have started to wear their traditional clothes, which is a short outfit with beads and ornaments. This outfit is not good for the office, though, because it is so fancy.
But Akore says that young women from the working class have come up with a new style that the Karamojong think is rude.
Joyce Loyola, who lives in the Panyangara sub-county, said that parents are to blame for not making sure their daughters dress properly. She said that it is now common for young girls to wear seductive dresses, which makes them vulnerable to abuse by men.
Loyola said every part of a woman’s body is attractive to men, and therefore it’s necessary to stop all visibility of these parts so that boys and men won’t get distracted.
“We have tried to teach our daughters to respect others and self-control. Nowadays they are taking us, parents, like their agemates and some, call us outdated” Loyola said and warned that dress codes must be strongly reinforced and enriched for the safety of the younger generation.
However, Timothy Odelok, the programme officer at Karamoja Women Umbrella Organization (KAWUO), opposed the proposed ban, saying it’s demeaning to imagine that culture still controls women’s dress codes. Odelok says the elderly are still trapped in a culture where women are controlled and not allowed to participate in decision-making. Yet, they have now woken up to create change in society.
He added that development partners have put in a lot of effort to ensure that there is gender equality and that calling for this ban may be intended to drag them backwards. Odelok said that the argument that the dress code puts young people in danger is stupid because they are supposed to go to school and learn about new things.
He said that if women’s dress codes were banned or criticized, it would hurt the work they had done as development partners to improve gender equality and equity.
In 2013, a motion seeking to ban miniskirts in Uganda was fronted by the then Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo. But the public expressed concern about its implications for constitutional freedoms.