When Joaninne Nanyange, a law student studying in Kampala, Uganda, showed up to the Law Development Centre to attend classes, she was reportedly stopped and asked to pull down her skirt “to see how far down it could go.”
Bewildered, Nanyange said that her knee-length skirt couldn’t be pulled down any further. At this point, she was allegedly told that she couldn’t enter the campus to attend class.
Nanyange talks about the incident in a Facebook post that has now gone viral:
The other woman, ever with a very satisfied grin, told me I could not access the campus because my skirt was not long enough for LDC standards … I was shocked. Yes. Shocked. Seeing the bewilderment on my face, the two women labored to explain. Apparently, skirts like mine attract the boys and men that we study with and bar them from concentrating. So they could not be allowed!!!!!!
Nanyange believes that patriarchy has been so widely institutionalized that some feel the need to create “de facto” dress codes and pass rules controlling women’s bodies. In an interview with BBC’s World Have Your Say, Nanyange reiterated that her skirt wasn’t even that short, even for legal professional standards.
“The reason they gave me, it wasn’t about the fact that maybe your profession requires you to have this length of skirt, it was about the fact that if you go with this length of skirt, you’re going to distract the men and boys that you’re studying with in class. That is really what I found most shocking and more infuriating because I think we can do better than that.”
In her Facebook message, she ponders why she should miss her classes “because men cannot control their sexual urges.”
Comments on her post were in Nanyange’s favor, including, “I was about to laugh but the thought that this is actually real filled my eyes with tears. This is blatant humiliation, and the most trivial aspect of anything an institution should deal with.”
“I work hard, and I manage to pay the…required (amount) for LDC’s tuition. But I can’t access the campus to attend my classes because when ‘my brothers’ look at my knees and legs, they will get erections,” she poignantly concludes. “Please let us live. Allow us to prosper. This nonsense needs to end.”