As part of its ongoing effort to prevent rape and possibly reduce the country's distressingly high rate of HIV/AIDS infection, police in Swaziland have announced that they will aggressively investigate sex crimes and make sure that would-be rapists know that they will be severely punished for their transgressions. Just kidding! The police will simply prevent women from wearing mini-skirts and exposing midriffs, because, you know, tight, skimpy clothes, according to police spokeswoman Wendy Hleta, make rape "easy" because "it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women."
According to the BBC, Hleta announced that, if they receive a complaint, police would enforce an 1889 law (that would be a law from the century before the last) that bans "immoral" dressing. Though the law makes exception for traditional costumes worn during the country's annual reed dance (when the king may choose a new wife, just so we all know where the priorities are), the issue of revealing clothing came to the forefront last month when police apparently blocked women dressed in miniskirts from demonstrating against rape in the city of Manzini. Moreover, in 2000, the "mini-skirt issue" became a rape-prevention priority when the government introduced a law requiring school girls aged 10 and older to wear knee-length skirts, the better, according to the country's morality sentries, to nip promiscuity in the bud and help stem the spread of HIV (the country of 1.2 million has one of the highest rates of infection in the world).
In her statement, Hleta seemed to put the onus of rape prevention squarely on the shoulders of women who wear "skimpy clothes," which have, in her estimation, the unfortunate side effect of drawing unwanted attention to the wearer. Of course, Hleta clarified that the police "do not encourage that women should be harmed," it's just that tight clothes and short skirts apparently make raping so much easier:
I have read from the social networks that men and even other women have a tendency of 'undressing people with their eyes'. That becomes easier when the clothes are hugging or are more revealing
Swaziland is a very conservative, patriarchal country, proof of which is found in the fact that it boasts Sub-Saharan Africa's only remaining absolute monarch, King Mswati III, who reportedly enjoys a "flamboyant" lifestyle as well as dressing his 13 wives in all the latest form-fitting fashions. Enforcement of the Crimes Act of 1889 will mean that, if a woman is snitched on for wearing a miniskirt, she could face punishment on the scale of unreasonable to grossly unreasonable: from a $10 fine to a jail sentence of up to six months to a year.