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Dressing Naked In The Name Of Fashion 

By Edwin Ndangoh & Agnes Obi*

CameroonPostline.com — They look like naked girls and boys coming out of bathrooms; their breasts, abdomens, thighs and buttocks exposed to the public eye. The young are increasingly challenging their superiors by dressing indecently, as it were, and this fact seems to be further aggravated by the plethora of Western habits absorbed from the media.

“I have confidence in myself and feel comfortable putting on short skirts because I have an attractive and smooth body with well structured legs. I don’t see any reason covering my legs especially now that I’m still young,” Winifred Ayuk, a student of the University of Buea, UB, told The Post why she prefers putting on mini-skirts. Mbanda Constand, another University of Buea student, said she appears more beautiful in trousers than skirts because it amplifies her shape.

“I love putting on trousers and not skirts because it brings out the beauty of a woman. My shape is well portrayed and it makes me look smart,” says Mbanda Constand. The boys on their part also demonstrate a high level of fashion interest by putting on pipe-legged trousers or what is known as “Slim” worn below their buttocks alongside shoes called Mocasette. Anabi Yanick, yet another UB student, says he puts on small legged trousers because it has been a habit from childhood.

“I started putting on clothes that bring out my body structure at the age of 12. I do this in order to scare away older guys who harass young people in the neighbourhoods due to their fearsome muscular appearance. Dressed in such wears, I also appear big, muscular and mature such that none of these trouble shooters can trouble me,” says Anabi. To make the combination more exhilarating, these boys will match their outfits with long T-shirts and an earring christened “Bling Bling”.

“My girlfriend likes seeing me in outfits that bring out the shape of my body. Besides, the world is fast evolving and one needs to move along with the times,”says Joel Bame, an inhabitant in Molyko. While the youngsters may enjoy exposing their bodies, the parents seem to be taken aback and question the growing trend of “street tease” as opposed to the yesteryears when it was rare to find children dressed sparsely.

“I once stopped a girl to inquire why she was out almost half naked, she mockingly told me ‘it is fashion and do you think I don’t have a mother at home who can equally question me? My mother has seen my clothes and approved of it,’” Florence Ngalle, a parent in Great Soppo, Buea, recounts the bitter encounter she had with the said girl. Ngalle also told The Post that she would be more than happy if Government could intervene and provide long-lasting solutions to this problem.

Michael Kometah Zozoh, Principal of Frankfils Comprehensive College, Great Soppo, expresses his concern thus: “As a principal and a parent, I have been advising my students on the issue of indecent dressing and the negative role it can play in their lives. If a student fails to keep to these warnings by dressing inappropriately, he or she is punished and sent home for violating the school rules and regulations.”

The Principal says Cameroonian youth are supposed to uphold the cultural values of Africa, but they have grossly failed to do so because they are borrowing uncompromised lifestyles from the West. In as much as some parents find it difficult to discourage their children from the habit of indecent dressing, others have succeeded in doing so.

Philomena Lum, a midwife at Holy Trinity Hospital in Ekona, says, “My children cannot dare put on such clothes in my presence; not when I’m alive. I have ensured that my 18-year-old daughter puts on only dresses that I have carefully selected for her. I often buy her mostly “material” dresses whenever I go shopping.” Fashion dealers on the other hand seem to take delight in and benefit from selling tight trousers, short skirts, tight-fitting T-shirts, amongst others.

“I sell “Slims” because it is what the youth desire. I’m also a businessman who wants to maximize profits. These explain why I go for what the market demands,” argues Paul Zeba, a fashion dealer in downtown Molyko, inhabited mostly by students who have large appetites for “naked dressing”.

According to Zeba, the students are fervent competitors in everyday life. Every student wants to appear attractive and more charming than the other, so they go for the latest fashion in town irrespective of whatever penalty awaits them. The question of indecent dressing by youngsters nowadays is shunned by many officials.

“Dressing is a matter of morality. So, if a youth chooses to dress poorly, he or she only goes as far as exposing the idea of improper parental home training. The Cameroonian culture does not permit us to ‘dress naked’, nobody should expect somebody to educate him or her on the essence of decent dressing,” Roger Lita, Chief of Service at the Southwest Delegation of Culture, said. Lita is corroborated by Rev. Fr. Elias Mengnjo Bongayen, Priest of St. Peters Parish Buea Diocese.

“The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is made in the likeness of God, explaining why the church has always stressed that the body should be covered, protected and cared for. The church has assumed responsibilities in educating the youth on the issue of decent dressing because most of these youth have not really mastered the dressing culture of their diverse backgrounds of origin,” said Rev. Fr. Bongayen. The Rev. Father said boys fail to understand that some of these hanging trousers they wear originated from prisons in the United States.

“Prisoners in that country wore baggies alongside belts folded round their waists as identification material to the public that they were convicts. Others, at times, when angry, unfolded these belts tied round their waist and used it in hanging themselves to death. As a counter-action, the military had to prevent all the prisoners from tying belts on their baggies, so as to avoid any unprecedented death which thus led to what is today known as ‘Yoh’,” Rev. Fr. Bongayen told The Post.

He advises parents to dress and behave modestly so that their children too can see in them decent human beings and, therefore, emulate them. Presbyterian Church equally expressed concern over indecent dressing among the youth, saying “No” to indecent dressing because such behavior can provoke temptation amongst members in church who sit around a girl or a boy who dresses badly.

“Indecent dressing can lead to temptation and thus to sin. Therefore a naked man or woman is a temptation to the next person. Indecent dressing does not only mean putting on mini-attires, it cuts across tight-fitting dresses that expose the contours of the body, reasons why the church has come up with uniforms for Christians amongst groups and by extension impacting the knowledge of decency to the Christians,” says Amos Talikom, the Pastor of Fako North Presbytery, Molyko.

*Student Journalists, National Polytechnic Bambui, University of Buea

First published in The Post print edition No. 1365

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