Cameroon's University of Buea has been nicknamed "Government High School Buea" for its restrictive dress code, and students — especially women — are annoyed at the school's attempts to police their clothing. But the university says the dress code is necessary to keep students from getting raped.
The Global Press Institute reports that campus police have begun enforcing the school's dress code. Oddly, the police don't seem to be explicit about what the code actually is, but one university lecturer posited the following rules:
Female students' dresses should be at knee-level and not [above]. Dresses should not be transparent. They should put on breast wears … Dresses should cover all sensitive parts, like breasts, lower belly, waists, buttocks and, of course, thigh[s]. Trousers should not be too tight and very short.
He adds that male students should refrain from wearing overly low-slung or casual pants, and should button their shirts. A number of female students report being sent home for alleged dress code infractions — says one,
I have never been so embarrassed and shocked in my whole life. I did not expect to be driven out of the university campus on grounds that I was not well-dressed. That was stupid.
Some students feel the dress code infantilizes them — hence the "high school" nickname. But some in the university community claim it's necessary — because, of course, revealing outfits get women raped. Guidance counselor Theresia Ebot says, "When you dress scantily, you call for attention from the opposite sex. This attention is tilted towards sex, which is a great cause of rape and sexual harassment these days." Lecturer Ludwig Metuge adds, "A rose, as beautiful as it is, when it blossoms in the open, it attracts bees. But when you hide this same rose, bees will not find it to enjoy its nectar." And one student says inappropriate clothing leads to "sexually transmissible marks" — that is, students sleeping with teachers to get better grades.
The idea that women "get themselves raped" by wearing short skirts is no more true in Cameroon than it is here. There have been no reports of rapes on the Buea campus that have anything to do with victims wearing scanty outfits. And lawyer Valentine Nij points out,
The concept of lecturers sleeping with students and rape will exist irrespective of how students dress. After all, there are registered cases of young babies who are raped, and this was not as a result of indecent dressing of these babies.
Just another reminder that victim-blaming is a global problem, but common sense — and focusing on the rapist rather than the victim — are a global solution.
Dress Code Aims to Prevent Sexual Violence at Cameroon University [Global Press Institute]
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