JOHANNESBURG, July 5 – Ugandan public servants have been warned to cover up after being accused of “sexually harassing” their colleagues by showing too much flesh.
Although Uganda’s ministry of public service’s directive enforces a strict dress code for both men and women it was seen as disproportionately focusing on women, and included a ban on mini-skirts and showing cleavage.
Public Service Permanent Secretary Catherine Bitarakwate Musingwiire signed a circular stating that all officers were required to dress decently and in the generally acceptable standards of Ugandan society, that country’s Daily Monitor newspaper reported on Tuesday.
“Female officers, should avoid wearing transparent blouses and dresses at the work place and ensure that clothing covers up cleavage, navels, knees and back,” read the circular.
“Female officers will not be allowed to appear for duty in open flat shoes except on a doctor’s recommendation/medical grounds, wear brightly coloured hair, in form of natural hair, braids and hair extensions.
“Those who choose to wear trousers may do so but the trousers must be in the form of smart lady suits with jackets, long enough to cover the bosom”.
In regards to how male public officers were permitted to dress, they were advised to dress in “neat trousers, long sleeved shirts, jacket and a tie. Open shoes are not allowed.”
According to Adah Muwanga, the ministry’s director of human resources, the directive was meant to respond to a public outcry over indecency.
“We got complaints that some public officers are indecent. Some female officers are pumping up their breasts and wearing mini-skirts. You are sexually harassing the male counterparts and in Uganda this is not acceptable,” Muwanga said.
“We are mindful of the perception of the public to our officers. Do you feel okay when you have nails several meters long? It is not neat and healthy and we have to care about the health of public officers,” she added.
Meanwhile, in more mundane, and less headline-grabbing news, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBS) reported that many families in rural areas of Uganda are unable to afford three meals a day.
The majority of Ugandans are reported to be living on less than one dollar a day and this has forced some rural families to migrate to urban centres to beg for survival from middle income earners.
The National Household Survey conducted last year by UBS, indicated that West Nile sub-region is the second poorest region with 48 per cent of the 2.5 million living in poverty after Karamoja, a region in north-eastern Uganda.