Protesting corps members on the platform of ‘Serve With Skirt Movement’ have threatened to sue the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) over its compulsory use of trousers during the one-year mandatory service.
At a protest in Abuja on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the group alleged that the use of trousers by female corps members “evoke immorality”.
The protesting corps members were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions like:
“There is a difference between the world and the daughters of God”, “Our sisters cannot dress like men, they should be decently covered” and “We are not worldly we are true children of God” among others.
Addressing journalists, one of the leaders of the group, Barrister Udochi Emmanuel Baba, lamented the harsh treatment meted out to female corps members who refused to wear trousers during their service year.
She noted that the law establishing the NYSC does not clearly stated what the uniform should be.
She maintained that they would rather go back to the 70s ” when female corps members were allowed to wear skirts” during their service year.
“The reason why we are here today is because year after year our female corps members posted to various states are being embarrassed, they are decamped, de-kitted and sent out of the camp on the grounds that they are putting on trousers and we know that it is a breach of their fundamental human rights as provided for in section 38 (1) of the constitution of our country,” the young lawyer began.
“These trousers are evoking immorality in the camps and we cannot take it anymore. This was not so in the beginning. Way back in the 1970s and 1980s we had our mothers wearing skirts and we want to go back to that.
“We have asked for exemption severally. NYSC has not given that as an option, they have made it a compulsory one-year service for everyone below the year of 30 and they are mandated to wear those clothes,” she added.
Asked the next line of action if their requests are not met, the lawyer said: “We may ask need to ask for redress in the court.”
Narrating her experience, a female corps member, Patience Noble, said she has not graduated from the scheme since 2016 when she was deployed to serve in Ebonyi.
“I was posted to Ebonyi state for my NYSC. When I got there, I told them that I will want to wear my skirts and serve the nation. As a citizen of my country, I have the right to serve the nation just like every other graduate has,” she said.
“They insisted that I wear this trouser or leave the camp. During the camp there were lots of insults and humiliation – one of military tore the skirts I was wearing on my body,” she alleged.
The corps member said she was told that she would not be given a certificate until she wears a pair of trousers.
This protest comes barely two months after two members of the 2019 NYSC Stream C in Ebonyi State, were sent home from camp for refusing to wear trousers.
The NYSC spokesperson in the state, Ngozi Ukwuoma, explained that when the duo were accosted and interrogated, they disclosed that they could not wear the white shorts and the trousers given to them by the NYSC since it was against their faith.
Efforts were made by the office of the Camp Director to make them see reason why they must obey the rules and regulations guiding the orientation and NYSC, but all efforts to do that were futile, she said.
This act generated controversy among Nigerians as many were torn between allowing skirt as part of the NYSC uniform or not.
Although the NYSC act does not clearly state what the uniform should be, it only said the corps members should accept and wear whatever is given to them.
Section 3(1)(ix) of the NYSC bye-laws states that every corps member shall “wear the various uniforms provided for the activities.”
It also says “any member who refuses, fails or neglects to comply with this rule shall be tried by the Camp Court and, if found guilty, be liable to be decamped and sent out of the orientation camp.”