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Kenya: Nairobi residents take to the streets after woman is stripped and beaten in public (The Guardian)

Hundreds of women took to the streets of Nairobi to defend their right to wear what they choose after a woman was stripped and beaten for wearing a miniskirt.

The woman was attacked at a busy bus stop in Nairobi’s Central Business District. Dozens of men surrounded the woman, tore off her clothes and forced her to the ground. According to local media, the men said the woman was “indecently dressed,” and accused her of “tempting” them.

A bystander filmed the attack, and video footage of the incident later emerged online. It shows the men calling the woman “Jezebel” as she cries for help. Kenyans have condemned the attack on social media, using the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice.

The Facebook group Kilimani Mums organized a “miniskirt protest” in central Nairobi to defend a woman’s right to wear what she chooses.

On the event page, Kilimani Mums wrote: “This morning we as Kilimani Mums met and decided that we shall hold a peaceful procession to Accra Road. This is our chance to stand together as women and deliver a message to our country that sexual violence will not be tolerated.”

Reports say that over 200 people attended the march. But as the protesters walked from Uhuru Park toward the site of the attack, they were confronted by men declaring that they would “continue to strip women who are dressed skimpily.”

Police Chief David Kimaiyo appealed to the victim of the attack to lodge an official complaint so that the police can investigate.

Campaigners say that in Kenya’s conservative society, women’s rights are often abused. Winnie Kabintie is a correspondent for KenyaForum.net. She writes: “It doesn’t matter whether or not the woman was indecently dressed; after all, what’s the benchmark for what is considered decent? Furthermore, how did stripping her bare aid in enhancing her decency?”

The issue of what a woman chooses to wear is not only a Kenyan problem. Ugandan police issued a public warning against “indecently dressed” women in February 2014. The country’s State Minister for Ethics and Integrity proposed a ban on miniskirts. Women mobilized on social media, using the hashtag #SaveTheMiniSkirt. A year earlier, Namibian authorities also attempted to ban miniskirts. Police arrested forty women, claiming that revealing clothes “are not African.”

Dan Moshenberg is Director of Women’s Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He writes: “Women [understand] that the issue of their clothing [is] nothing more or less than an attack on women’s autonomy.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Kenyans protest after woman is beaten and stripped in public, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/17/kenya-mydressmychoice-protest-woman-stripped?CMP=twt_gu

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