Zambia’s Health Minister Sylvia Masebo has been forced to cover her shoulders and back with a scarf in parliament after a male opposition MP complained to the Speaker of the National Assembly that her outfit was causing “psychological noise” to male members.
Mulenga Fube questioned whether Ms Masebo was dressed appropriately, as her dress showed her bare back.
Her dress, which covered her chest and shoulders, allowed part of her back to be seen.
While the Speaker responded by saying he didn’t see anything wrong with what she was wearing, he said she should cover up because of the complaints. Ms Masebo then borrowed a scarf from another MP, before she later came back with one of her own.
Civil rights activists have called the incident discriminatory. Mirriam Mwiinga from the Young Women Christian Association in Zambia told the BBC the incident was sexist and did not uphold expected freedoms of women.
While in parliament, female MPs in Zambia are only allowed to wear a formal dress, a formal suit either with a skirt below the knee or a pair of trousers or “decent” traditional attire.
There is also a dress code for male MPs: A formal suit; a pair of long trousers, a shirt, jacket and tie; a toga; “decent” traditional attire; or a safari suit, with long or short sleeves and a scarf or a tie.