In Malawi, violent conservatives have recently been attacking women and stripping them on the streets. The victims have been singled out for wearing “nontraditional dress” – in this case, pants.
Last week, President Bingu wa Mutharika condemned the attacks in a national radio broadcast. “I will not allow anyone to … go on the streets and start undressing women and girls wearing trousers, because that is illegal,” he said, according to the BBC.
“You are free to wear what you want,” the President added. “Women who want to wear trousers should do so, as you will be protected from thugs, vendors and terrorists.”
Malawian Police reportedly arrested several street vendors believed responsible for the attacks, which have occurred in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre. Activists and women’s rights groups have planned protests and other events across the southern African nation.
“We are calling on all women and men of goodwill to urgently converge … for constructive engagement on the protection of women and the defense of their rights in a democratic Malawi,” said Seodi White, one of the country’s leading activists. “[We stand] in solidarity with the victims and … express our indignation at such barbaric treatment of mothers, wives and daughters of our country.”
Women in Malawi were banned from wearing pants and other “nontraditional” clothing items, such as mini-skirts, until 1994. Some officials are blaming the recent attacks on economic hardship.
“There is so much suffering that people have decided to vent their frustrations on each other,” Vice President Joyce Banda told the BBC.
Image credit: Steve Conover (Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike License)