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14.08.2003 General News

Lawyers disagree with judge on indecent exposure

By Larry-Alans Dogbey/Network Herald
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Two Accra lawyers, Nana Oye Lithur of the Law Trust Company and Augustine Niber, at the Center for Public Interest Law have expressed amazement at a statement attributed to a Berekum circuit court judge that sought to suggest that females could be prosecuted for the way they dress.

They insist that any such move would be a complete breach of the Constitution and “extremely ridiculous.”

Mr. Niber wondered whether the learned judge knows that “there is no law in of our any statutory books that prohibits indecent dressing” and suggested that the man may be using the law to mask his own weaknesses.

When the Network Herald sought their views on the position of the judge on indecent dressing, Mr. Niber pointed out that the Criminal Code only prevent indecent exposure “when for example a football player stripes naked in a jubilant mode on the field of play such that certain parts that are considered private are exposed to the full glare of the spectators”.

”These however do not include wearing short skirts and certain dresses that exposes one’s thigh to the public”, he noted. He submitted that since there is no such law, any attempt to arrest ladies or young girls whose way of dressing tend to be so suggestive as court trouble for the “morally weak and bankrupt” would be a complete violation of their human rights.

But there was some salvation for the learned judge. Mr. Niber was of the view that if the situation is as serious as the judge thinks, then it is important that he advocates a law with a prescribed punishment and not the arrests and prosecution of persons when he knows so well there is no known law on such a matter.

According to Nana Oye who simply described the judges position “extremely ridiculous,” Ghana is a signatory to numerous international laws and Convention that ensures that certain fundamental human rights which include the right to bodily integrity are observed and pointed out that people can wear whatever clothes they deem fit. ”I can wear whatever I want to wear and nobody can punish me for that, since it does not infringe on any body’s rights”.

She viewed the position of the circuit court judge as very myopic especially because it offends Article 21 of the constitution, which recognizes among other things the right to move freely in the country and dress according to your taste. On the probability that an “indecently” dressed lady could attract rapist, Nana Oye felt it is wrong for people to think that in the days when women wore the traditional “Slit and Kaba,” there weren’t rape cases in the country.

She stated that even though rape cases were rampant in those days, embarrassment and the fear of stigmatization prevented the victims from making their plight public knowledge and thanked the Ghanaian media for championing the cause of women.

Nana Oye, a Women’s Rights Advocate who recently began an action against the National Media Commission and the Government at an Accra High Court for what she described as unfair representation of female on the governing boards of the state owned media houses advised that it is about time we stopped thinking it is only the female sex who turn on their male counterparts with certain kinds of dresses.

”You think that the ladies are not turned on when they see their male counterparts with exposed muscles and other vital parts of their bodies,” she asked. “What is needed urgently is research and the development of a scheme that ensures behavioral change of people.”

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