The sexual implications of a skirt-wearing schoolgirl span all forms of culture, from literature to film and pop music (not to mention the 2 billion Web sites that feature schoolgirls). But if you live in Swaziland, get that thought out of your head right now. The nation's government has just banned miniskirts in school.
Like most of Africa, Swaziland has been hit hard by AIDS. At least 250,000 of its 1 million people are infected with HIV, and the nation's life expectancy is expected eventually to drop from age 38 to 30. To curb the spread of this disease, the country is taking what some health experts see as brash and bizarre steps. Parliament is currently debating legislation to implement mandatory sterilization for anyone infected with HIV.
And now, they want to take away the miniskirts, in the belief that schoolgirls with short skirts provide too much temptation for their teachers. Theoretically, instructors might be worked into a crazy state, have unprotected sex with the pupils and continue to spread AIDS.
If this strikes you as a drastic measure, consider that many African nations, home to the majority of the world's 34.5 million people infected with HIV, are naturally trying anything at this point. "The ban will go into effect next year and schoolgirls 10 years and older will be required to wear knee-length skirts," a source at the Ministry of Education told Reuters.
"We are living in tough times because of HIV/AIDS and ... we need to address the problem of dress code among students because it all starts from there."
Any girl who refuses to conform to the miniskirt ban will face expulsion from school.
Swaziland has had a torturous relationship with the miniskirt for decades. In 1969, the country outlawed all miniskirts simply because they were viewed as immoral, but discovered it was almost impossible to police such a dress code among the general public. This time around, the ban in schools makes sense to government officials not only because of the AIDS threat but because it's also easier to enforce: Wear the wrong skirt, get kicked out of school.