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Woman Finally Jailed For Indecent Wear! Should The Law Regulate Dressing?

“It is sad how people are fighting to dress naked in public in the name of human rights,” said Sabizeze via Twitter.

Mugabekazi Lilliane, the 24 year old Rwandese, who was arrested & charged with public indecency after wearing a revealing dress, to a concert by popular French musician Tayc in Kigali on August 9, 2022, has been sentenced to two years in jail.

The Law Determining Offenses and Penalties in Rwanda, Article 143, stipulates that “Any person who performs an indecent act in public, commits an offense. Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months and not more than two years”.

The case has elicited mixed reactions on social media with many condemning the government for violating women’s rights. After the conviction, Rwandan authorities were seen turning away ladies dressed skimpily during concerts and nights out.

“This is an attempt to kill a big part of the entertainment and night economy. She is a video vixen, and she was at a concert at night. In the age of Instagram, music videos (which are shown on public TV), indecency can’t be defined this narrowly,” Gonzaga Muganwa tweeted.

In 2020, three women were paraded in front of the media by Rwanda Investigation Bureau after posting videos on Instagram naked. They were charged with publishing scandalous videos about sex and drug use and sentenced to 36 months in prison. 

But where does the law and human rights meet in setting up the criteria for either? In Kenya, there are laws set out under Sections 181 of the Penal code and 37 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act (CMCA).

Section 181(1) of the Penal Code provides that “any person who (e) publicly exhibits any indecent show or performance or any show or performance tending to corrupt morals, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years or to a fine of seven thousand shillings” [emphasis supplied].

Section 37 of the CMCA proscribes the same conduct described as ‘wrongful distribution of obscene or intimate images’. It provides that “a person who transfers, publishes, disseminates, including making a digital depiction available for distribution or downloading through a telecommunications network or through any other means of transferring data to a computer, the intimate or obscene image of another person commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both”.

Indecent dressing was uncommon in Africa, but today, it is progressively becoming part of us and at the same time, leading to the increase in the rate of immorality in our society.

The idea of human rights activists defending immorality is a subject that needs to be given key attention. Just where do we draw the line? Should the law regulate dressing?

You be the judge.

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