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Uganda and its Oppression of Women

How the African country is turning a blind eye to the rights of women.

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By Austin Cherkas | UGANDA

America is blessed with, “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” However not every country keeps in touch with human rights. One country, in particular, has established new crackdowns and regulation on women and how they dress. Uganda has failed to secure women’s rights and their freedom to express themselves.

The Ugandan government released new laws to protect “morals” within their country. These laws target how civil servants can dress. Here is a list of what women in Uganda in a civil servant career cannot do:

  •  Wear a skirt or dress that is above the knees
  • Wear sleeveless, transparent blouses and dresses
  • Show cleavage, navel, knees, and back
  • Have bright-coloured hair (natural hair, braids or hair extensions)
  • Have nails longer than 1.5 inches, or have bright or multi-colored nail polish

In an attempt to show equality, the Ugandan government also made clear that men in civil servant careers must:

  • Wear neat pants long-sleeved shirts, jacket and a tie
    Not wear tight fitting pants
  • Not have open shoes, except on health grounds/recommendation.
  • Have well-groomed, short hair

These regulations were specifically meant to target women, this is admitted by one of the forefront people to make these regulations–Adah Muwanga, human resources director at the Public Service Ministry. Muwanga states, “new circular was needed because of complaints–especially about female public officers–from male counterparts, who say ‘body parts should be covered’.”

These regulations sparked major protests. Many protesters claim that the government shouldn’t force dress code within a business and that only the company itself can do that. Rita Achiro, head of the Uganda Women’s Network, has raised important questions regarding the new laws, “How does dress code affect service delivery… What Ugandans need are more teachers and nurses… We have high maternal mortality, children in schools without teachers… I don’t see how the banning of mini-skirts and bright-colored shirts is going to fix that.”

Many more women who have violated this dress code before the regulations became law have been criticized and have faced employment problems. Rebecca Naddamba, one of these women, wore a two-piece red outfit, with a long skirt made up of strips of cloth, showing her legs to a party. Now she can’t become a teacher, because of her outfit.

It is important for a government to function efficiently and effectively, and by doing so making sure that the citizen’s rights are not being violated. We can see that the Ugandan government has decided to ignore their many problems as a third world country and decided to attack a mundane topic of dress code. Should the government be in charge of deciding what is moral? This is a question we have to ask ourselves in light of Uganda’s battle of hemlines and neckties.   

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