FRANCISTOWN: The Francistown bus and taxi rank is becoming a dangerous place for women in high hemlines, despite the police promising to keep an eye on the situation.
In an undeclared war on the high hemline, taxi drivers here often gang up to attack any woman who, in their dim view, is dressed indecently. Alternatively, such women are booed, insulted and even stripped.
In the latest incident a week ago, two young women clad in short dresses escaped by a whisker when they were chased by a yelling mob of taxi drivers and their conductors at the rank. Some students joined the fray in the midst of catcalls as soon as the two hapless women entered the rank from Nswazwi Mall.
A few moments later, it seemed everyone at the rank could not resist the urge to join in the craze. To their credit, the women focused on a combi which whisked them away before the mob could get to them.
Said Julia Saturday, a vendor who operates at the rank: "They are lucky. They should have been stripped. How can they come to the rank dressed like that? They disgrace us as women." In her view, wearing miniskirts is tantamount to advertising the body.
For Fifi Rapitse (23) and Chawada Makhala (24), the women should not have worn short dresses when coming to town. "That manner of dress should only be confined to indoors," said Rapitse. Makhala, chipped in: "With the booing that they got, I bet they will never repeat it."
Asked about violation of the women's rights, Makhala said: "They are the ones who are violating their own rights. Even the Bible does not want people dressing like that." Another eye witness, Modise
But not everyone was pleased. Said Takongwa Masole: "It is not fair to treat other people like that. I don't see anything wrong with a woman dressing in whatever manner she likes as long as they make her comfortable." Ontebile Moesi concurred with Masole that women should be given the freedom to dress they way they want. "We often see men wearing revealing clothes in public, but no-one ever bothers them. Just because women are defenceless, men tend to take advantage of them," she pointed out. This incident comes hardly two months after a woman in a miniskirt was stripped naked by unruly taxi drivers at the same taxi rank before she took refuge - only in her panties - in Botswana Railways houses across the railway line.
The police have always said that no such incidents were reported to them. Only recently did the Commander of Central Police Station, Superintendent Mokuedi Mphathi, promise to intensify patrols in the bus and taxi rank to make sure that such incidents do not recur.
According to the police, stripping anyone in public is an offence punishable by law. A person can be charged with indecent assault or common nuisance for harassing a woman to the extent of stripping them. The law also proscribes exposing private parts in public.