Retailers cater for spoilt brats dressed up as femme fatales

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

I often watch disdainfully as girls as young as five prance around in sexy outfits, smeared in kids' make-up, clutching purses and all.

But their mother's faces glow with gratification.

In a country that is crawling with paedophiles, why do national fashion outlets like Edgars, Mr Price and Ackermans endorse this sexualisation of the innocent through fashion.

Woolworths, particularly, specialises in grown-up outfits made in small sizes. Children as young as four have a whole wardrobe to coordinate.

Woolworths said that girls develop earlier these days and it caters for their needs.

They even make bras, some of them padded, to accentuate a small kid's bust.

I saw a pre-school girl harassing the staff at Edgars for a bra in her size. I was given no choice but to concede that mental development is also on the rise and that shops can only offer what is in demand.

The undeniable truth is that shops set the trends. Children don't start asking until they see.

However, it has to be said that, as rapists cannot blame their actions on the dress code of their victims, you cannot judge children's future conduct on their fashion sense.

"We live in a very democratic society, so dictating what your kid may or may not wear to fend off sexual advances is as good as stealing that child's childhood from her," said child counsellor Matshidiso Letlaka.

"Just because a child is dressed up like a small lady it doesn't mean that her parents are raising her to be a little madam."

But Mosidi Motaung, 34, disagrees. She said that dressing kids like little femme fatales heightens their curiosity about their femininity and how powerful that factor can be.

"Even the kind of toys they are bought leave an impression. What they learn in the early stages of their lives might define many future decisions."

Khosi Ndaba, 30, believes that it is the responsibility of every parent to make sure that the fight against sex crimes is won.

"If parents stop buying these outfits, the shops will stop selling them, but if they dress their children to look like a smaller version of themselves they are endorsing this sexualisation of children."

Julia Pheko, 23, says that though a child's image is her parents' prerogative, it is important for the development of people go through stages like nature's seasons.

Noli Shabalala, 50, thinks that what is available for girl children is "appalling, given the struggle we are facing as mothers of small girls".

Nthabiseng Makhale wags her finger at the fashion outlets.

"They leave parents no choice but to choose from what is on offer," she says.