By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

MEDELLIN, Colombia – A university in Colombia is facing backlash after advising its female students not to wear miniskirts or “tight-fitting clothes.” Students on campus wore short skirts in protest of the university’s sexist advice.

Students put on miniskirts and shorts in protest. Image Courtesy of Mariana Duque Diez.

Pontifical Bolivarian University, known as UPB, is located in Medellin, Colombia. On the university website, campus authorities instructed that female students refrain from wearing miniskirts to avoid “distracting classmates and teachers.” It warned that “tight-fitting clothes” could disrupt their peer’s educational experience.

The original post appeared on January 30th and was circulated by many students’ social media. It was under a heading, “How should you dress to go to university?” Some of the recommendations were unisex, but the majority were aimed at women. The advice read, “There is nothing more uncomfortable than distracting your classmates or teachers. For this reason, we suggest you don’t wear low necklines, short skirts or tight-fitting clothes.”

Students reacted strongly against the advice. They said the sexist advice was not helpful to Colombia, a country that already struggles with an overtly “machismo” culture.  Male and female students joined in a campaign to wear short skirts to campus. They shared a rallying call online so that people would not be scared. The call said, “Whether or not you are distracted does not depend on my skirt. Tomorrow, everyone wears skirts.” The next day, students shared pictures of themselves and classmates in shorts and skirts around the university.

UPB has since deleted the post. In defense, it says the tips were only meant as general suggestions and the article was mostly aimed at new students. The university released a statement that said, “The UPB respects the right to express personalities, and has never imposed a dress code on students.” The following day, the university acknowledged that the matter was under investigation.

One student, Helena Munera, shared her view of the campaign, “Those who think that we are fighting for our right to wear short skirts or low necklines are very wrong. What we are asking for is an end to messages that encourage disrespect of women.” Others shared her message and promoted the idea that short skirts are not a green light for cat calls or harassment. One student said that the event made her feel underrepresented by the old-fashioned institutional position.

This is not the first time the university has been accused of sexism. In 2015, UPB started summer classes for girls aged 5-10. The focus of the course was good manners and the title was “Girls’ things.”

For more information, please see:

Times Higher Education – Colombian students stage miniskirt protest over ‘sexist’ advice – 14 February 2018

Colombia Focus – Skirting the issue – 10 February 2018

BBC News – Colombian students in miniskirt protest against sexism – 9 February 2018

International Business Times – Colombian University Students Wear Miniskirts To Protest Against Sexism – 9 February 2018

Author: Emily Green