Custom and ethnicity allows young women to wear miniskirts, the national house of traditional leaders said yesterday in reaction to a recent attack on a woman wearing a miniskirt at a Johannesburg taxi rank.
From time immemorial young women had been required to wear traditional miniskirts - known as makgabe or mabheshu - at traditional ceremonies, some of which required that they dance bare-breasted, it said.
"The national house of traditional leaders therefore calls on the nation at large to unite in action and protect our young women against archaic men who take advantage of culture as a means of assaulting women," said spokesman Mandlenkosi Amos Linda.
Nwabisa Ngcukana, 25, was allegedly assaulted earlier this month at Johannesburg's Noord Street taxi rank by taxi drivers and hawkers who tore off her clothes to cheers from a crowd who said she was being taught a lesson for wearing a miniskirt.
The attack has been widely condemned by, among others, taxi organisations, the ANC Women's League, the Young Communist League and Gauteng provincial authorities.
Describing the women's attackers as "insensate", - lacking sense or the power to reason - the traditional leaders said the actions of Ngcukana's attackers were not only "barbaric", but unconstitutional in that they violated gender discrimination provisions.
"The national house of traditional leaders strongly condemns those who hide behind culture or exploit it to push their personal agendas," said Linda.
"At no point has culture dictated to young lasses to wear dresses below their knees and neither has it dictated to men to assault young women who choose to wear miniskirts. But, it is culturally correct for married women to dress properly in respect of their husbands."
Inspector Xoli Mbele said police are still looking for Ngcukana's assailants. She has opened a case of sexual harassment and is liaising with the investigating officer, but has yet to identify her assailants to the police.
The Gauteng National Taxi Alliance has called on taxi associations operating in Noord Street to investigate and immediately suspend anyone implicated. - Sapa