BUSINESS almost came to a halt in the city centre in Harare on Saturday morning as people stampeded to catch a glimpse of protesters who took to the streets to demonstrate and voice their concerns against touts who harass women in miniskirts, especially at commuter omnibus ranks.
Dubbed “Mini-skirt march”, the demonstration attracted about 200 women dressed mostly in mini-skirts and shorts to protest against the continued harassment of women and girls considered to be “dressed indecently.”
Scores of bemused onlookers could be seen taking pictures and videos of the marchers using their mobile phones and tablets.
In their typical style, rank marshals, commuter omnibus drivers and touts followed the marching ladies. But some could be seen retreating as many of the mini skirt marchers were not dressed to their expectations.
However, others followed to Town House where the marchers later gathered.
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But sadly and not surprisingly, touts shouted obscene words and called the women prostitutes. They heckled the women as they boarded commuter omnibuses back to their respective homes, forcing police to intervene.
The march, which was organised by a Women Rights lobby group, Katswe Sistahood, started at Town House before moving to Copacabana and Market Square bus terminuses.
The marchers were carrying different placards with messages criticising touts for harassing women at various bus ranks.
Katswe Sistahood director Talent Jumo said the march was a success as many women joined hands to denounce harassment by touts.
“We seek to reclaim our constitutional right to move freely in an independent country,” she said.
“We are happy that many women joined hands to denounce female harassment by these touts. We denounce the unbearable acts of humiliation and harassment by these touts and rank marshals at different bus terminuses in the country as ladies have the right to dress in any fashion of their choice.”
Cecilia Dengu, who was part of the march, said men should respect the way women chose to dress.
“We cannot say we have enough freedom when some parts of the city are no- go zones for women. That is unacceptable and must come to an end,” Dengu said. I must not be afraid of dropping off at Copacabana because mahwindi [touts] will harass me, but I must be free to drop off where I want.”
The march was however denounced by some touts.
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Reason Majanga, a rank marshal at Copacabana said they were not going to tolerate women who walk in public places semi-naked.
“We have schoolchildren who come here on their way to and from school. When they see such dressing from their sisters, what will they learn? We whistle and boo them so that the youngsters will know that such type of dressing is not tolerated in public,” he said.
Rueben Kasirori, a tout at Market Square rank, said the police should not have allowed the march to go ahead.