The following will be banned from television screens if the Anti-Pornographic Bill, tabled in Parliament this week, passes in its current form; Grace Nakimera, Judith Heard, Iryn Namubiru, Bad Black, and yes the Ebonies will have to rethink their wardrobes before appearing on stage.
You will not even be allowed to produce or read anything with pictures of women wearing short skirts or showing their cleavage and in night clubs, surveillance cameras will be mounted to monitor whether someone is giving you a lap dance. That, too, is outlawed.
At the beach, yes at the beach, you will have to choose between a tunic (Kanzu) and a prison sentence.
Reason: The Anti-Pornography Bill outlaws anything that shows sexual parts of a person such as breasts, thighs, buttocks or any erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement or any indecent act or behaviour tending to corrupt morals.
Fr Simon Lokodo, the Ethics and Integrity minister, who is pushing for the Bill, says skimpily dressed girls are a distraction to drivers in Kampala and men in general. He says following the increase in pornographic materials in the Ugandan mass media and the increase in nude dancing in the entertainment world, there’s need to put in place a legal framework which can define pornography and regulate the vices. Is Parliament misguiding its energies by considering the Bill, or it is a god-sent chance to curb the societal immorality?
“Since our cultural norms have failed, it is high time the government came in to put an end to this nuisance,” says Mr Francis Babu, the chairman National Association of Broadcasters. “The question should be why government is coming up with the law. We should first agree whether showing body parts is a nuisance or not. If our cultural norms that punished women for virtually walking naked are now fused with Western culture what should government do?”
According to the Bill, the current law on pornography (Article 166 of the Penal Code) does not recognise the fact that the issue of pornography transcends publication and includes communication, speech, entertainment, stage play, broadcast music, dance, art, fashion, motion picture and audio recording.
The arts and culture industry will be the most affected since, as veteran actor Aloysius Matovu Joy says, costuming in this industry is done depending on the message the actor or musician wants to put across.
Fr Lokodo argues that the Bill says the right to entertainment and the right to broadcast or publish any material do not include the right to engage or broadcast pornographic matters or obscene publication.
However, those in the arts and culture industry feel there is a lot the Ethics and Integrity ministry should do for the society than targeting the length of a woman’s skirt.
“We have issues like corruption and we have not heard him come out to condemn corruption or even to propose a law that punishes the corrupt,” says Santa Anzoyo, the managing director of Arapapa, a clothing and modelling line in Kampala.
Anzoyo contests the argument that showing of thighs and flesh is the main cause of rape and defilement. She says prevalence rate of rate in Karamoja is very low compared to places where people dress up fully.
“He should instead address the cause of moral decay in Uganda. They have looted our hospitals dry and he is there just talking about miniskirts. Will he also ban men’s V-neck shirts because the neck lines are getting deeper by the day?”
Matovu Joy says the Bill makes it hard for the acting industry to perform. “Supposing they pass the Bill, how shall we portray that dressing miniskirts is bad when there’s someone at the gate waiting to arrest you. It is an unfortunate Bill,” he says.
On the contrary, singer Moses Ssali aka Bebe Cool believes the ban will increase competition in the music industry. “I can have decent girls in my videos,” he said. “It will actually put an end to people thinking that you must have a naked girl in your video in order for it to sale.”
However, he says the government is using the Bill to distract people from the real issues in the country.
“They are just passing time because I think they lack things to do in that House,” he says. “There are things you can’t afford to discuss in a third-world country which still has roads and hospitals to fix, which has teachers to pay and which has MPs’ morals to put right. The minister should first focus on the morality of those who steal public money.”
The same argument is held by fellow entertainer Moses Sekibogo aka Moze Radio. “There are so many issues MPs need to address other than miniskirts and cleavage. There is still load-shedding, lack of drugs in hospitals. Mine is a different story and I believe a law on miniskirts is not what is missing in this country,” says Mr Sekibogo.