Friday, 13 January 2012

Used Goods?

“I am told we are now even importing women’s underwear in this country. How does that happen? If you are a husband and you see your wife buying underwear from the flea market, you would have failed,”
“If I was your in-law, I would take my daughter and urge you to first put your house in order if you still want her back.”
~Tendai Biti, Minister of Finance Zimbabwe

Effective on December 30th, Zimbabweans are not allowed to import “articles of second-hand undergarments of any type, form or description, whether purchased, donated or procured in any other manner.”  Zimbabwe is not the first to ban the importation and sale of second-hand underwear; Tanzania's government likewise banned the practice in 2003, and Ghana did it as early as 1994.  

While reading through the news, two questions bothered me: 1) should the issue of underwear become a public policy issue? 2) Should women wear other women’s underwear?
Sourced from

Some argue that the ban on used underwear was the right thing to do. “Wearing used underwear is most dehumanising and no government worth its salt should allow its citizens to be abused to this extent. It is a fact that our flea markets receive bales of clothing, some of which is exclusively used underwear – some of which is soiled” (NewsDay).

Human rights lawyer, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, argues that “in our culture and social life, underpants are the single piece of cloth that is associated with protecting the dignity of womanhood or manhood. Now, that cloth is a subject of public discussion because of poverty, extreme poverty, and some misplaced policy priorities.”  

Though it sounded odd and somewhat embarrassing coming from a man, and because our underwear has become a public discussion, Biti was right to stop the import of used underwear, and I hope other African countries will follow suit.  

Women’s activists should stop being emotional and be honest with ourselves for a moment, asking ourselves this question: Are we so poor that we have to import stained underwear from foreigners? 

Culture evolves with time; back in the 90’s, we never discussed things like underwear in public but it is time to break the silence, most especially when it affects the health of our women.

Contrary to Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda’s comments, there is nothing dignifying about wearing another woman’s used underwear, also there are health implications one has to consider.
Sourced from

A microbiologist says used garments can harbor dangerous germs and diseases that can survive on fabric for weeks. He claims, “Fecal material would be the most concerning substances. You could have bacteria viruses, fungi. These are things that one person would be able to transfer to another inadvertently through the garment.”

So what could we do to fix the problem?
There is no simple solution to this issue. However, if we want to make a positive change, we must encourage the production and patronage of local underwear factories, and offer feminine hygiene education to our women. It is important that both of these options are made accessible to all people, especially those who are most in need.

By Elsie Reed

1 comment:

  1. Thank God someone finally said this,in Nigeria nobody cares about what comes in.I hope that with this we can start our own campaign here.