Nigeria's frilled and braided given dressing down

August 10, 2001

Students at the University of Lagos College of Medicine have been asked to conform to an official dress code.

A circular signed by Christopher Isiekwenagbu, student affairs officer, says: "Ladies should not wear too tight dresses; no jeans with frills; no tattered jeans; no trousers which tend to show all the contours; the blouses should not expose the bellies or part of the breast; no spaghetti tops; no mini dresses up to the upper thigh level; skirts should not be slit to the upper thigh level. In short, students must not attend classes half-naked."

Trousers, it demands, should be well tailored and of neutral colours. Artificial nails, "flamboyant" jewellery, slippers, high platform shoes and long hair are banned in clinics and laboratories for the students' own safety.

Male students, too, are asked to leave their slippers at home, to have their shirts tucked in and properly buttoned and to make sure their jeans are not dirty or torn. Braided hair, earrings and flowing gowns have been banished from laboratories.

The circular made no mention of penalties for non-compliance, but many students have accepted it because they fear lecturers will penalise them in exams.

Josephine Aiyede, an anatomist at the College of Medicine, said: "Female students who dress immorally on campus have no basis to turn back and accuse their male colleagues or lecturers of sexual harassment as their act would amount to hypocrisy."

Restrictive dress regulations are being adopted at other Nigerian universities. At the University of Ibadan, vice-chancellor Ayodele Falase ordered some female students out of a matriculation ceremony for new students, because he felt they were indecently dressed.

In universities in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law has been adopted, female students have reverted to traditional dress. Fatima Aliyu, a law student at the Uthman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto, said: "Nigeria is not Afghanistan, where women are locked up at home. We would not dress to provoke and incite men. We would always respect our traditional modes of dressing."

Women students visiting markets in northern Nigeria have been warned not to wear western dress because they may be stoned and beaten by Islamic militias who patrol the markets to ensure that women adhere to Islamic dress codes.

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