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Rwandan woman who was arrested for ‘dressing indecently’ freed

Rwandan authorities have released Liliane Mugabekazi, the 24-year-old woman who was arrested for dressing indecently at a music concert in the capital, Kigali.

Ms Mugabekazi, who was arrested on August 7, appeared in court on Thursday, August 18, where she was charged with public indecency under article 143 of the penal code.

It states that anyone who commits an indecent act in public, commits an offence. Convicted offenders are liable to imprisonment for at least six months and at most two years.

In court the prosecution argued that Ms Mugabekazi attended the concert while wearing clothes that “reveal her private parts… clothes that we call shameful.” The prosecution asked the court to detain Mugabekazi for 30 days while investigations continue.

Ms Mugabekazi pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying she was not the one who took and shared the photo. She also said that could not have entered the venue if she was naked or indecent as it is alleged because she underwent security checks on the spot at the concert of French-Cameroonian singer TayC at the end of July.

But after spending 12 days in detention, Mugabekazi was released on bail on Friday. Rwanda Judiciary Spokesperson Harrison Mutabazi said courts expedited the ruling which was set for next Tuesday.

Ms Mugabekazi’s arrest drew an outcry on social media, with an online petition raising over Sh1.2 million ($10,000) for her legal fees. But Rwanda National Police said they would not let up on their efforts to crack down on public indecency.

“Rwanda Police reminds the public that nudity, public indecency and serving alcohol to underage children is punishable by law. We urge parents to educate and protect their children from these acts,” the police said in a tweet.

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Online, netizens pointed out that the dress was decent, it only looked sheer because the photographer may have used a flash hence illuminating it as such. Black outfits most times turns transparent under the camera flash.

On Twitter, Rwanda got a backlash with many saying Ms Mugabekazi had a right to dress the way she deemed fit. But authorities expressed alarm over the increased cases of indecency and immorality in the country.

In recent years many Rwandans have fallen foul of the country’s strict indecency laws. In March, police arrested a 20-year-old woman for “public drunkenness and indecent assault” after a video of her lying on the ground in a drunken stupor circulated on social media.