What women wear: a constantly fashionable debate

A few years back I blogged about a woman in Sudan who was at risk of being flogged for wearing trousers.  The case of Mrs Lubna Hussein hit the global news headlines as many couldn’t believe that a woman could be flogged, fined or jailed for wearing loose-fitting green slacks.

Fast forward seven years to a different continent, and once again we see a woman being targeted for what she chooses to wear. Whichever way you look at it: this image is astonishing: a woman lying on a public beach surrounded by armed police and ordered to remove a piece of her clothing.

In what context is this ever permissible?

The absurdity of this image is compounded by the fact that it took place in a country that claims to promote freedom and equality.

Time after time, we hear that a woman’s dress is the subject of controversy and control.  On my very first day at Amnesty I was astonished to hear my colleagues discussing the launch of a new opinion poll they’d commissioned which revealed how more than one in every four people thought a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

When I heard this, I asked my colleagues  – which country are you referring to?

Expecting them to cite some far-flung country, I was astonished when they said “Here. The UK.”

It is woeful then how a decade later, women are still being attacked and persecuted for what they choose to wear.

We’ve said it before, and tragically years on, we still repeat this mantra: a woman has the right to wear pretty much whatever she wants.  

And we should be allowed to do so without threat of violence or discrimination. Just as a nun wearing a habit on the beach in Nice should be entitled to sit freely without attack or arrest, so should a woman wearing a burkini.

There really isn’t any excuse for the image which outraged millions of us earlier this week.  France should stand by its proclamation of liberty and freedom for all: whether it’s trousers, a burkini, a habit, a onesie – their choice. Their right.

The only indecent image which caused offence on that day, in my view, were the men with the guns.



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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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