Jan. 24 (GIN) – Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has stepped back from remarks earlier this month criticizing women for wearing pants or miniskirts. The remarks triggered an outbreak of beatings and of tearing clothes off women over their choice of attire.
In a 15 minute national address, President Mutharika condemned the recent attacks on women mainly by vendors who claimed that the President had ordered it.
“Women who want to wear trousers should do so as you will be protected from thugs, vendors and terrorists,” the president said in a local language, Chichewa. “I will not allow anyone to go on the streets and start undressing women and girls wearing trousers because that is criminal.”
On Friday, Jan. 20, hundreds of girls and women, among them prominent politicians, protested the attacks while wearing pants or miniskirts and T-shirts emblazoned with such slogans as: “Real men don’t harass women.” A recording of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” got a loud cheer when it was played during the protest. Men also took part.
Even the President’s VP chimed in with support for the protestors. “Some of us have spent our entire life fighting for the freedom of women,” Vice President Joyce Banda told the protesters. “It’s shocking some men want to take us back to bondage.”
During the reign of Malawi’s first President Kamuzu Banda, women were not allowed to wear trousers and miniskirts until 1993 when Kamuzu was about to leave power.