TRADITIONAL Authority M’mbelwa of Mzimba district has banned the wearing of miniskirts in his area, an action that legal minds say is pressing him in direct conflict with the constitution of the country and with people under his rule.
Paramount M’mbelwa confirmed the ban by forwarding to Express Newspaper a copy of the bylaws which among others outlines the ban of wearing both miniskirts and see-through attire within the area under his rule.
The ban contradicts the freedom of expression under chapter IV of the constitution of Malawi which under sub-section 35 grants to every citizen within the country’s borders to be able to express themselves. The ban has further attracted a strong criticism from the public with some saying the country has progressed to civilization hence refusing citizens to express themselves through dressing is an ancient mindset.
Girls that this paper spoke to expressed disappointment with the action calling it unconstitutional and uncivilized. They have so far called for responsible civil society organizations to intervene and fight for the lifting of the ban.
On his part, Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) executive director, Gift Trapence, says such restrictions are supposed to follow the procedures outlined within the Constitution of Malawi. He however asked to be given time to go through the document by Chief M’mbelwa before he gives a full necessary comment on the subject.
During the one party type of government, the then President Hastings Kamuzu Banda passed a public decency law in 1973. Among others, the statute banned wearing of miniskirts, and see-through clothing for women. The law, which remained in place until a new constitution was passed in 1995, was oddly precise in its definitions. In fact, some of the country’s historical facts mention that one of the requirements for obtaining a visa to visit Malawi in the 1970s was that “Skirts and dresses must cover the knees to conform to Government regulations.”
However, after Malawians voted for multiparty type of government in 1993, it paved way for constitution in the year of 1994 which came with well classified human rights. From the year of 1994, civil societies and human rights groups emerged winners, and promoting human rights became one of the major issues.
Travelling across our big cities like Blantyre and Lilongwe, one can easily see women wearing miniskirts, even in offices, it is their right. It would be unconstitutional therefore for some sections to bar girls from wearing miniskirts for whatever reasons in this century of a responsible free human being.