A police internal communication memo, addressed to all Directors and Unit Commanders, under Reference number ADM/32/131/01, was written by Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura and his deputy Okoth Ochola. The memo outlines the new rules for policemen’s and policewomen’s dress code. A lot of such memos have gone out in several Ugandan offices and a lot of employment contracts stipulate similar dress code regulations. However there are some sticky issues with this particular memo.
When Police Chief calls jewelry pieces like anklets a “shame to the institution”, the memo becomes much like Fr. Simon Lokodo’s Anti-Pornography Bill. The Bill that “seeks to create the offence of pornography which has become an insidious social problem” and the dangers pornography poses to the community like “sexual crimes against women and children including rape, child molestation and incest.” These enforcers and protectors of the law might not even notice their own patriarchal biases. Fr. Lokodo is asking the law to dictate women’s dress code so we might not get raped. It looks like protection, but also smacks of an adult’s orders to a girl, “Don’t wear lipstick!” or “That skirt is too short. Go change!” The moment a man views a woman as somebody who is not an equal adult that makes their own decisions about what to wear, when to have sex… well, then that is the same moment he sees himself more powerful and will exercise such power by raping her.
A lot of people wonder what lipstick, what long and/or tinted hair, have to do with one’s job performance. Several women, if you take the time to notice, wear pumps to work and change into stripper heels after for after-work creative activities. No one expects these policewomen to be in stripper heels because given the standing and the walking, these women do not want to subject themselves to such pain for more than four boring work hours. Suffice to say, dress code regulations should be about practicality and not some chauvinistic misguided need to protect an institution’s pride.