uganda outlaws secondhand undies

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    Amazing! What gaga land do these guys live in!

    Uganda outlaws secondhand undies
    November 3, 2004

    IS it an insult to wear a vest that belonged to another man, the knickers of a women you've never met, the pyjamas of a child in a foreign land that you will never see? In Uganda, the Government has decided it is.

    From January, vendors selling mivumba -- second-hand clothes given to charity shops in the West and shipped to Africa -- will no longer be able to hawk undergarments. No nighties. No bras. And certainly no underpants.

    "Studies have shown that diseases such as candida (an invasive parasite that attaches itself to the intestinal wall) can be transmitted by soiled mivumba," said Gyaviira Musoke, the chief inspection officer at the Ugandan National Bureau of Standards. "Besides, it's demeaning to the people. There are certain items that should just not be worn by other people."

    Many people in Uganda would agree in principle, but, when it comes down to matters of economics, they have always been ready to trade a dash of dignity for necessity. More than 80 per cent of all clothes sold in the country are cast-offs from Britain, the US, Canada, Japan and the Middle East. Mivumba is much cheaper than new clothes, and the quality is seen to be better, too.

    "This ban is a big mistake," said Hawa Nabisubi, 38, a petticoat seller at Owino market, a sprawling 10ha bazaar in downtown Kampala famous for its second-hand clothes. She said her camisoles, which sell for about 2250 shillings ($1.70), typically lasted a year while more expensive new garments were finished after a month's continued wear.

    Shoppers were also unhappy. Olivia Nassimbya, 26, the owner of Olivia's Unisex Hair Salon at the market, said: "When I buy underwear here, I first soak it to make sure it's clean, and then there is no problem. We are poor, these clothes are cheap and each piece is unique."

    Some traders fear the new law is the beginning of the end for mivumba. Local textile manufacturers have been lobbying for a ban on the clothes, as they cannot compete on price. The Government has introduced import taxes on mivumba, but this has had little effect on demand. An outright ban would be deeply unpopular, for the cast-off clothing industry has developed into a super-slick operation employing tens of thousands of people in an entire support industry.

    The whirr of sewing machines competes with traders' cries and music blaring on the radios at Owino market, as women repair torn clothing.

    Men work the ironing boards, using ancient irons heated on open fires to work out creases before the clothes go on display.

    A boy walks around with a bucket of dried fish, ensuring shoppers and retailers do not go hungry. A man with a pan full of fried white ants does a brisk trade.

    Vendors know what sells best and choose their stock from the wholesalers carefully. British suits are afforded pride of place in the suit stalls. "The UK makes the best suits," Paul Ssali, 38, said, sitting in front of his stall. "Marks and Spencer especially."

    The Times

    The Australian

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