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Wednesday,September 30,2020 12:46 PM

Problems of enforcing morality

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th January 2003 03:00 AM

The recent controversy over a teenage girl, who went to a New Year bash scantily dressed, raised quite a number of issues.

The recent controversy over a teenage girl, who went to a New Year bash scantily dressed, raised quite a number of issues.

By Chibita wa Duallo

The recent controversy over a teenage girl, who went to a New Year bash scantily dressed, raised quite a number of issues.

When her picture first came out in the newspapers, there was a lot of outrage from many people who cared to react. Even the Police moved in, hunted the girl and arrested her. Just as they were planning to charge her, cracks started appearing in the case.

What offence were they going to charge the girl with?

There were attempts at the usual omnibus idle and disorderly charge. Yet idle and disorderly relates better to conduct than a state of dress or undress, for that matter.

In any case, why single her out for being idle and disorderly when that night many people attended that particular party and several others around town.

At most of those New Year parties, the mood was actually one of idleness and disorderliness. People were sitting or standing, drinking or dancing, and watching fireworks. Others were creating their own fireworks through burning tyres, rubbish and anything that could catch fire.

There was a lot of meaningful shouting, screaming and shouting. Many people were idle and disorderly, but it is kind of allowed every once a year for people to make a fool of themselves.

Nakedness, however, is a different matter; hence the particular interest in the girl called Jamel. The most appropriate section to charge such a person under, seemed to be indecent exposure, so the Police thought. The only problem was that a new concept was introduced in the picture. The girl claimed she was actually wearing some kind of underpant called G-string!

By now of course, the public mood seemed to have swung in the girl’s favour. How come the Police was so efficient in arresting a young girl for having a good time at a New Year party? Why was the Police not as efficient in arresting robbers and murderers? What offence had the girl committed anyway? So she was wearing a G-string, then she was not guilty.

Some people argued that even if the girl did not have on anything under her short skirt, there was no problem.

After all, many people go around without underpants either because they cannot afford them or they just don’t feel like. That even all these smartly dressed women in town, if you were to take interest, you would find several without even the G-string. In some parts of the country mature men and women move around dangling their endowments.

It then transpired that actually there is no law requiring anybody to wear an underpant. There will be no problem with morality either if nobody, except an intimate maybe, knows that one is not wearing underpants, even in public!

So, it seemed, the photographer maybe, should be the person to blame for going under the girls skirt at a wild party and bringing her image on the front page of a national newspaper. Yet even the photographer claimed to have just been doing his job, informing the public of what was going on at a public function.

Moreover, nobody was willing publicly to go into defining what amounted to indecent dressing.

Should not wearing a panty constitute an offence? Who then will enforce such an intimate offence? Should the restrictions be on the length of skirt? After all, with a long skirt, nobody cares what is or is not underneath?

Many people still remember Amin’s Miniskirt law, which prescribed how high a woman’s skirt had to be above the knee before she ran into trouble with the law.

Many also remember how ridiculous, oppressive and detestable that law and the regime that passed it was. As a result, not many people were willing to suggest a legal dress code as a solution to the Jamel ‘mischief’.

At the end of the day, the teenager walked out of custody without being charged. I am almost sure, if the Police had not arrested her, they would have come under more blame than they did for arresting her.

Most people agree that they would not allow their daughters or sisters to go to a party as scantily dressed as that girl was at that New Year party. Yet the same people will not mind if some other girl from the neighbourhood engages in such mischief. The major reason for that apparent dichotomy is that dress, ultimately, is a moral question.

That is why some women dress in long flowing gowns with only their faces showing. Those kinds look at women in trousers and short skirts as indecently dressed.

Other cultures allow women to walk around with their busts exposed yet in modern urban societies, that is a no no. Trying to get into what is decent or not, therefore seems to be best left to the family where core values and morality are taught.

Though, of course, we all agree that if we see someone walking around naked, then they are most likely not making a fashion statement. It is safe to conclude that they are really mad.

Which means that even without a homogeneous moral standard, human beings have some basic minimum standards in common.

Problems of enforcing morality

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