You may have seen in the media a few weeks ago a story about The University of Zambia and complaints about perceived indecent clothing worn by female students. One of our ambassadors, Chabota, recently wrote a piece voicing his opinion on the subject. As always, we welcome respectful debate around the issue.

One person’s view of the impact of Western culture on African’s through the way they dress. Do you agree?

One could actually wonder where the world is heading today. Our new generation has come up with its own way of dressing brought about by Western culture.  By our standards, Africa youths today dress indecently. Indecent dress code is the exposure of one’s body to the public. Culturally, people are expected to dress well because culture has a lot to do with the way people in society dress.

Each and every society has a way of dressing; a dress code which is accepted by society and which shows respect to the public. In the 21st century, African or Zambian dress code has changed negatively. People, especially youths, do not care about decent dressing. Up until the late 80s, people used to respect the traditional way of dressing: women were expected to dress modestly which included loose and long dresses, skirts and wrapping of chitenge. It was not allowed for a lady to show her thighs; it was considered disrespectful.   Men used to dress in long trousers or shorts and cotton shirts.

Why should it be a serious concern that various styles of dressing are indecent? It has implications for the moral upbringing of children in our African society. This problem is so serious such that even children at lower primary level want to emulate Western styles.

Let me now take a look at some of the causes of indecent dressing that has found its place in Africa. An influx of foreigners visitors to African countries, especially tourists, have brought with them this negative dress code.  Although in their culture, they see nothing wrong with certain styles of dressing, it hurts our society when youth try to copy it  and it results in indecent dressing in our society.

Wrong mentality has also brought about indecent dress code in our country. Usually young people dress indecently because of their mentality. Indecent dressing is caused by the common phrase: “the problems of our generation”.  Phrases like: “Only God can judge me, you cannot”; “Leave me alone”; “Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion”; “Mind your business”. In short the freedom and rights that young people enjoy have somehow corrupted their minds. It has made it impossible for their elders to correct and advise them – a good and strong tradition within Zambian culture. As the saying goes “more freedom, more problems”. Our young people have filled in their minds with the wrong things.

Indecent dressing in society is also associated with poor parenting. This is a major problem and a major cause of indecent dressing. Parents should be role models to their children hence they have the mandate to educate and control their children on a more sober way of dressing. Some parents themselves dress so carelessly in public such that it is hard for them to control their children when they see them dressing indecently.  As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”. Indeed, charity and discipline should begin at home.  Hence, decent dressing should first be practiced at home.

Nowadays churches have become one of the causes of indecent dressing in our society. Even they have been invaded by bad dress code. Gone are the days when families dressed up in their best clothes when churches promoted good moral values of dressing. For instance, you find in some churches that its members come to church in short dresses and skirts. In our culture such kinds of dressing are not accepted in society.

Incorrect use of the internet and new technologies has tampered with our African Culture. Things that are posted on the internet have resulted in a confused culture. Western fashions trending on social media have been taken up by young people to Africa’s detriment.

What is right and acceptable in one culture and society does not hold true for others. While being scantily clad might be fine in the UK, America, France, Italy, Sweden, Holland, it is not right for Africa. Yes, we can learn from other cultures, but we don’t want to be subsumed by them. We need to adapt our culture for the strengths in theirs, but we shouldn’t throw away the best of Africa in the process.

Indecent dressing erodes our African and Zambian cultural values. Culturally, you know that a country is advancing when its citizens honor their own culture but the reverse is the case in our society today. People have turned against their own culture and they are now embracing foreign culture; a culture which is against our culture.

However, in as much as there is an increase in indecency dressing among the youths and some elders to an extent. There are solutions that can be followed and help to promote our culture standards. Lastly let me also take a look at some of the solutions which can be of benefit in preserving our cultural way of dressing.

First of all, there is need to change the mindset or rather the mentality of some people in society. Among the causes of indecent dressing in our culture, I looked at a negative mentality being one of the causes. Therefore, there is need to change the way young people think. Knowledge is power; hence the power of knowledge should be used wisely or in a positive manner. Feeding the mind with a positive thinking helps each and every person to have a positive kind of thinking. As a result our cultural values will be preserved.

It is important that society plays a role in promoting a good dress code. Society is the centre of culture. Elders in society should be able to promote good dressing for our youths to emulate. If society becomes active in promoting good dress code, we as Africans and as Zambians would be able to preserve our culture.

The church should also be one of the institutions in promoting good dress code among the youths. Therefore, church leaders should preach against indecencies in the churches and mosques. It is also important that these religious leaders or institutions offer prayers and sacrifices for divine intervention.

The media houses have a role to play in promoting our culture and good dress codes. The media has the mandate of educating and sensitizing the general public on the dangers associated with all forms of indecent dress codes. Earlier I looked at the media being one of the causes of indecent dressing in society. Therefore, the media should take keen interest in promoting and educating people on our cultural way dressing. Media commissions should also outlaw the showing of indecent dressing in movies by actors and actresses.

We all know that the kind of dressing in higher institutions of education is somehow bad. Therefore, the authorities of higher institutions of learning should prescribe decent dress code or uniforms for all students and make decent dressing a key element in our culture.

African is a continent with different people and with different cultures. Culture identifies a certain group of people in society from others.  Culture makes Africa to be different and unique from the rest of the other continents. Therefore it is important that Africans follow its way of dressing. Western culture should not overtake our African culture. As Africans, we should not sit back and see our culture being eroded by foreign culture; we should promote our own styles of dressing which are accepted by our society.

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