It’s not about rape | What the Swaziland laws against mini-skirts really mean

The concept that women cause rape is laughable at its best and at its worst – a terrifying indicator of how little respect our societies have for the female person. The law passed recently in Swaziland is a sad mixture of both.DSC_2874

The Swazi Monarch has decided that banning women from dressing ‘provocatively’ is a sure-fire way to prevent rape.

Because everyone knows only women dressed in mini-skirts and low-rise jeans can get raped. It only takes a quick look at the very low rape-rate in Islamic countries where only conservative garb is tolerated on women to see this.

Oh, what? That isn’t true?* That’s weird.

But it’s not weird. Because this has nothing to do with women’s clothing. Rape never does.

Rape is about control. And laws like the one passed in a country like Swaziland where traditional ceremonies in the King’s honour are more than tolerant of scantily-clad minors are still a firm fixture of the country’s cultural identity, are proof of this.

What we are looking at here is a very common situation that happens in the mind of many men groomed in the pits of their patriarchal societies. We are looking at a kind of thinking that these men hold onto—the kind of logic that makes them believe that a woman’s body is theirs to police.

How else would you explain a King being able to get away with deciding when and where it is appropriate for a woman to dress a certain way? He is instilling this law in a world that already perceives women’s bodies as objects made solely to satisfy the sexual appetites of men.

The idea in his mind and in the minds of many men is—“If I’ve got no use for your tits right now, cover them up!” That is what’s happening. No one wants to sit down and examine this kind of thinking. No one wants to examine the link between rape and control.

When I hear a man say “women who dress ‘provocatively’ cause rape” I hear “if she doesn’t cover up her ass she deserves to have a man punish her for that” and promptly back away.

That’s what is happening here. And why is it happening in Swaziland? Think of all the communities that have the highest normalized rape-rates. Think of communities where rape is so common that it is almost always accepted. These tend to be communities where men feel disenfranchised by the outside world. Where the only power they feel in their lives is power over the women in their communities. And when they don’t feel that power they take it. Rape is the number one tool used to ‘remind women of their place.’

And this is case in point. King Mswati’s monarch is falling apart. Let us not sugar coat things here. We are all adults. We read the news. Swaziland’s economy has been deteriorating at an exponential rate for quite a few years now. King Mswati’s empire has become the laughing stock of Southern Africa.

He has lost so much credibility that it’s a surprise he hasn’t been kicked out of the AU. (But looking at the AU’s recent track record that may not be such a surprise.)

We’re looking at a man that has lost any power he had outside of his country. He has nothing to offer to the development of Africa as a whole. His opinions, advice, leadership skills mean nothing to the other leaders of this continent. In SADC he has now been relegated to playing nothing more than the drunk rural uncle at our ‘family gatherings’. It is a pathetic thing to watch. But that is what is happening.

And when the Swazi women began to protest against rape he saw that he was losing control of the one thing his Monarchical Status guaranteed him: women.

So what does he do? He runs straight to laws that haven’t been enforced since colonial times to remind these women who is boss.

And that, boys and girls, is what this is really about. Power. And Control.

In any case, Swaziland can kiss my citizenship goodbye.

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5 thoughts on “It’s not about rape | What the Swaziland laws against mini-skirts really mean

  1. Manwale says:

    I beg to differ/ while agreeing on another level/…In as much as its a show of power, the clothes women wear go a long way in controling the thoughts of men and vice versa. You go aroubd half naked, you arouse half the number of ken who see you who happen to have control-freaks whose next thought and subsequently course of action is Rape. Go around in long skirts and you’ll arouse only the truly idle enough to watch your swinging curves…thats around 1/8 the people watching.. :-)

    • isalu507 says:

      But thats just bullshit. So what you are saying is that men have no control over themselves? A man, once aroused, has to ejaculate into a woman? Or what?

      Any man whose next course of action is rape when he sees a woman in a short skirt is nothing but a criminal. It’s just disturbing to see someone trying to defend sexual offendors with non-existent reasoning like yours.

    • Steph hammond says:

      A victim is never át fault for being raped. It is always the rapist whom must carry full responsability for his(/hers) actions. You do not touch what ks not yours (and that means anything but your own body – you do not own your husband/wife/child’s body). Sex that is not consensual is a crime. Simple as that.
      Legislation like the one discussed in the post only serves to show and exercise power, and to shift the guilt from the rapist to the victim.

  2. [...] at irregular intervals. Whatever is being done in our societies is very clearly, not enough. If the laws in Swaziland and the incident in Indiawhere a young woman was gang-raped on a train is anything to go by, the [...]

  3. Joy says:

    While the point of the the article is spot on, it is unfortunate that it is based on articles from the media that weren’t fully factual. Mini-skirts are not banned in Swaziland. The King did not enforce any such laws (this is a law which dates back to 1889) – the subsequent statement from the government will attest to this. There is a constitution which protects the rights of women (and everyone) to wear whatever it is they want, hence they are in the process of repealing all laws which contradict the constitution. Also, the law in question has also not been clarified in full – it has nothing to do with gender because even the dress code of men falls under it. My being able to walk into a police station in a short dress a few weeks ago is also proof that this law is not enforced – otherwise I would be in a jail cell right now serving my 6 month sentence. Sensationalist journalism…..”Swaziland bans miniskirts” must have sold more papers and increased viewership on the news channels.

    As I said, the point of the article is spot on however – linking rape to the dress code of women is unacceptable. We need to get to a point where this is not even discussed, but where the rape itself and rapist are chastised. Rape can not be blamed on the rape survivor. Ever.

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