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Judge Orders Arrest of Indecently Dressed Women in Zambia

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Human Rights, Law, Women & Gender

A female high court judge in Zambia has directed police to start arresting indecently dressed women.

Women in Zambia are often subjected in public to taunts and in some cases stripping if they are considered to be indecently dressed, a subject this article's writer blogged [1] about more than five years ago.

The order is allegedly an attempt to curb the problem, but some Zambians have accused the judge of indirectly blaming women for their own assaults.

The statement of Justice Rhoyda Kaoma, judge-in-charge of the Kitwe High Court, was first reported on the Facebook page of Flava FM 87.7 [2] radio and immediately went viral:

[…] Supreme Court Judge Royda Kaoma has urged police officers to arrest anyone found indecently dressed to avoid escalating Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases.
Ms Justice Kaoma who is also Kitwe High Court Judge-in- charge said in response to a concern from one of the members of the public on what the police was doing about indecent dressing by some girls and women, that police should take up the role and arrest those found wanting.

So following calls by judge Royda Kaoma, the question is:
Should police start arresting women who are indecently exposed? […]


Justice Rhoyda Kaoma [3]

Madam Justice Rhoyda Kaoma, right, in the picture that appeared on James Mwape's Facebook page and used here with his permission.

Reaction in the wake of the judge's statement was fierce. Scott Davies commented [4] on the radio station's Facebook report:

How moronic to blame the women for men who act!
This justice is so wrong.

This judge must be one hell of an i…t.
Why not making sure women are protected from call boys and other fools who think they are judge and jury and strippers of women.

Its close to rape as they grope and try and touch the women as well.

Another commenter, Kingsley King Kaluba, accused the judge [5] of being dull:

The role of the judge to is merely interpret the law,clear ambiguities n pass sentece [sic] not directing police.that judge is dull.I can tell she got that position through..katwishi mwe (I have no idea).

But others such as Gerald Sandundu supported the judge’s directive [6]:

if there is a precedent then the judge is ok and going through the zambian law reports the judge is very correct..at least we will be saved from these ladies who re [sic] walking almost naked in public […] bravo madamjudge [sic].

James Mwape reported in a Facebook post that Justice Kaoma was speaking at a Catholic Women’s League luncheon where she said [3]:

Police officers should do something about indecent exposure and under the law there should be nothing like parents would plead for their children because just like manslaughter or murder cases, an offence is an offence.

Police should take up the role and arrest culprits, they should take even one example

Commenting on Mwape’s publication, Caroline Nenguke Phiri criticized the judge for focusing on women's dress instead of men's behavior [7]:

Seriously misdirected energies & instructions!! Instead of telling women how to dress, tell the men to stop raping them!! Will we now pay for the sins of men who can't control themselves?? Really, are you for real??

On Twitter, the converstation continued. Muleya Mwananyanda Muleya Mwananyand (@MuleyaM [8]) wondered why Zambian jurisprudence is so backward:

@MuleyaM [9]:  [9]@senzian [10] #GBV [11] you gotta be kidding me right? which judge? which case? honestly why is Zed [Zambia] jurisprudence so backward?

One tweet, however, stated a woman’s legal organization was not aware of the judge’s comments:

@Manyanyato [12]: the organisation “Women in Law & Development” is unaware of comments made by Judge Roydahkaoma [13] with regard to women's dress and #GBV [11]

It will be surprising, however, Zambian women's movements take the judge's directive lying down.