Women in Swaziland have been banned from wearing miniskirts and crop tops because they ‘encourage rape’ – and offenders face a six-month spell in jail.
Police in Swaziland, the last absolute monarchy in Africa and an incredibly conservative nation, have resurrected an archaic colonial criminal act from 1889 to stop women wearing clothes that expose their body.
Swazi police were responding to a march in the second city of Manzini last month by young women, some wearing miniskirts, who were seeking equal rights and safety.
In Swaziland women are legal minors and two-thirds of teenage girls have been victims of sexual assault, according to the South African Independent Online.
Police spokesperson Wendy Hleta warned: ‘They will be arrested.
‘The act of the rapist is made easy, because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women.
‘We do not encourage that women should be harmed, but at the same time people should note acceptable conduct of behaviour,’ she said.
The ban also applies to low-slung jeans and tank tops. However, the ‘indlamu’ costume, a tiny beaded belt worn when young women dance for King Mswati topless and with their buttocks fully exposed, is permissible, authorities declared.
Hleta said this apparel is permissible because police have no records of any maiden being raped while wearing the costume.
The king, who has been criticised for his lavish lifestyle in an impoverished country, already has 13 wives.
Women have also been advised on a way to retrieve dropped objects that will not make them ‘culpable’ in their own assaults by ‘exciting males’.
Hleta said: ‘For females it is polite that when you have dropped something, squat with your upper body still upright and pick up the item rather than bending half your body head first to pick up the item.’
The Swazi police spokeswoman did not say whether a woman not following the guidelines for picking up a dropped object would be arrested or issued with a warning.