*Disclaimer* Because we have advertisers who don’t like certain words, the word most commonly used for “involuntary sex” will be replaced with “involuntary sex.”
Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa, landlocked in between Mozambique and South Africa, has a solution to the prevalence of sexual assault in the country. The South African Independent Online reports that two-thirds of teenage girls in Swaziland have been the victims of some type of sexual assault. This solution? The government is making the choice to wear “revealing clothing” in public punishable with up to six months in jail.
The law is actually nothing new but more of a reemergence of a colonial law that was originally enacted in 1889, which banned women from wearing any type of clothing that would “expose their bodies.” Whatever that means. Now, the law is being promoted by the Swaziland police department as a protective measure against women. Because according to Wendy Hleta, a police spokesperson, this type of clothing encourages involuntary sex:
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 behavior.”
The law is believed to be a response to a march women and young girls participated in last month, calling for protection against a recent string in incidences of involuntary sex. Eventually, the march was blocked by the police.
But according to The Daily Mail, the law, which applies to miniskirts, low-haning jeans, tank tops and crop tops, has its exceptions though. The “indiamu” costume that young women wear when they dance for King Mswati is permissible. The costume consists of a beaded belt to be worn on a topless woman. The dancer’s behind is also traditionally exposed as underwear is not worn. Authorities have said the “indiamu” costume is an exception.
There are so many layers of wrong here.
First, there’s the universal problem of blaming women for the sexual assault or involuntary sex that they find themselves the victim of. This is not just Swaziland. The idea of telling a woman she drank too much, or was dressed to scantily or allowed a man to do too much before she said no continue to be rationalizations, in many countries across the world, for the fact that too many women are suffering at the hands of rapists. Rarely, do we hear about campaigns that tell men, simply, do.not.rape.women. If she’s had too much to drink, don’t have sex with her. If she’s wearing a miniskirt or a tank top, it’s probably because it’s hot outside and not an invitation for you to have sex with her. Just because she was down for this does not mean she’s down for that. Those are the messages governments, law enforcement agencies, health teachers, regular teachers, parents and guardians need to be sending to their sons…and daughters because women can be rapists too.
A miniskirt and a tank top is really not the issue here.
Furthermore the law is insulting to men as well. Men are not thoughtless animals. The idea that a man can’t or won’t be able to prevent himself from having sex with you, whether you want to or not, just because you’re showing a little thigh, is insulting. Insulting to men at large and excusatory for rapists.
If we lived in an ideal world and I could rewind time, a month ago when those women and girls were marching, trying to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault, the police, instead of blocking them, would have arranged a time for them to sit down and talk about possible solutions to this problem. And since this fantasy world is ideal, the solutions they talked about would have completely eradicated sexual assaults. Other world nations would then look to Swaziland as a model of how eliminate involuntary sex in their countries as well. But unfortunately none of that happened; and instead, miniskirts were banned.