The “My dress my choice” debate has been doing the rounds in Kenyan media circles for the past week and a half. It is a debate that was triggered by the stripping of a woman in Nairobi’s Central Business District on the 17th of November, 2014, allegedly by Matatu operators. A similar incident followed days later in Nairobi’s Eastlands- Kayole estate.
In Christian circles, there are the liberal Christians who accept a person for who they are, not according to outward appearance. They believe under constant exposure to the truth from God’s word, negative things gradually shed off because they become more like Christ. One of the doctrines that guide them is Grace.
There are also the conservative Christians who strongly believe the Torah. According to them, women should be modestly dressed, with some insisting on trousers being a man’s clothing. Their scripture of reference is Deuteronomy 22:25 “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, or a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.”
In a bid to understand this phenomenon from a Christian perspective, I sought opinions of various Christians.
Walking into his glass walled office at Family Media, he is busy reading. Being a Friday evening, he is prepping for his TV show Walk the Talk. Pastor James Okumu host of radio 316’s Jam 316 sheds much light into the issue. “The fact that men are stripping women is an indication of a greater problem in our society. A problem that we do not want to address”, he says in his authoritative baritone voice.
Pastor Jammo as he is commonly referred to by his listeners believes the place of men in the society is to protect women. “A scantily dressed woman should never be undressed. Instead, we should look for a way to dress her”, he says. He believes there are deeper psychological issues leading women to dress the way they do. He adds that no matter the reason, it does not give men a right to undress them.
Pius, a member of a conservative church has differing views. “Women who dress scantily deserve to be stripped. They constantly complain of sexual harassment by men, yet they are the ones sexually harassing men by their scanty dressing”, he asserts. He adds that men are visual beings, some of whom are weak, so ladies should be careful on how they dress. He quotes 1st Corinthians 10: 31- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God- even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Joyce Meyer is on TV preaching on the power of words. Esther Cate, Pius’s daughter says, “Let that woman put on a skirt before she steps on the pulpit”. The message has been diluted by the speaker’s mode of dressing.
Pastor Jammo narrates a story of a man who came to their church having mungiki style dreadlocks. No one mentioned the hair, but brethren accepted him for who he was. The young man got saved and continued attending their worship services. One day, the same man came to church and people could not recognize him. He had shaved his hair clean. “Christians push people away by their judgmental attitude, yet church is where sinners should feel accepted”, he adds.
Winnie Thuku, a Kenyan motivational author says, “Whichever side you argue it from, for or against short skirts, stripping a woman is wrong, wrong and wrong. Anyone supporting it is no different from those doing it.”
Pastor Jammo says that the heart is what matters. “One may dress in a robe yet the heart has nothing”, he says.
About human rights, pastor Jammo says that as Christians, we do not have rights. “Our lives do not belong to us, we belong to Christ. Therefore we relinquished our ‘human rights’”, Pastor Jammo states. “We should therefore dress to please God because we are a reflection of his image” he adds.
“The problem with today’s society is a ‘selfie’ culture, everything is about the self, including the famous selfies posted online”, Jammo comments. Quoting from Galatians 5:16, Pastor Jammo says, “God’s word tells us to live by the spirit so that we do not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”. He concludes, “We should therefore be guided by the Holy Spirit”.
Charles Spurgeon, a British Baptist theologian of the 19th Century said, “London gets their fashion straight from Paris and Paris gets their fashion straight from hell.”
The battle of the sexes has been witnessed in Kenya following the stripping ordeal. Weeks later from the first stripping incidence in Nairobi; we have witnessed a trend of women being stripped in other parts of the country. We have also witnessed protests from women defying the men who strip women. The women dressed in miniskirts and marched in Nairobi’s streets, with men holding counter protests to dress the women.
A twitter campaign under the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice, has been running. People have been expressing their views on this subject.
A Matatu crew responsible for stripping women naked was charged in court on December 10, 2014, with robbery with violence and sexual assault. They now face the death penalty.