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What were you wearing...

What I was wearing concept

“What Were You Wearing?” Survivors of sexual assault are frequently asked this question, which is loaded with victim-blaming and the inference that perhaps the incident might have been avoided if the victim had worn something less revealing or sexy. The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey revealed that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also revealed that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.


Our Co-Director Safina Virani (center-right) talking to guests at the Launch of the ‘What I Was Wearing’ exhibition at Netherlands ambassador residence in Uganda, November 2022


This exhibition will put on display the clothes that survivors/victims of sexual violence were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. The intended outcome is to trigger a conversation on the relation between clothes and rape culture. The exhibition will provoke viewers and passers-by to contemplate thoughts: “Wow, I have a similar dress in my wardrobe,” or “I wore something just like this” in this setting. This exhibition hopefully dispels the illusion that if we simply avoid wearing certain attire styles, then we won’t ever be hurt or the illusion that we can magically end sexual violence by changing our clothes. 

One of the mannequin at the exhibition dressed in the clothes of the victim

Each dressed mannequin was accompanied with a direct quote from the survivors to bring out their stories and experiences. Testimonies ranged from declarative statements “It’s a dress not a yes” to a heart wrenching 16-year old’s’ “I no longer wear dresses unless I have shorts or leggings underneath”. In Uganda, marital rape is yet to be criminalized and one of the mannequins displayed the reality and consequence of this. “He was my husband; I was 2 weeks postpartum.”

A joint initiative from UN Women Uganda and Frauen Initiative Uganda, the exhibition showcases the different attire that survivors of sexual assault were wearing when assaulted, to dispel the idea that what a woman wears is the cause for her assault.

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Event Gallery

May 2024

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