Passport

Prostitutes co-opt Muslim attire

Question: What’s the quickest way to get Muslim women to stop wearing extremely conservative clothing? Answer: Get prostitutes to start dressing like them. In Mombasa, Kenya, the coastal city’s “twilight ladies” have ditched their skimpy “uniforms” for the much more conservative buibui—a billowing, ankle-length gown with head covering that Muslim women in the region wear. Sex workers say ...

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Question: What's the quickest way to get Muslim women to stop wearing extremely conservative clothing?

Answer: Get prostitutes to start dressing like them.

In Mombasa, Kenya, the coastal city's "twilight ladies" have ditched their skimpy "uniforms" for the much more conservative buibui—a billowing, ankle-length gown with head covering that Muslim women in the region wear. Sex workers say it lets them hide their identity, avoid arrest, and look respectable.

Question: What’s the quickest way to get Muslim women to stop wearing extremely conservative clothing?

Answer: Get prostitutes to start dressing like them.

In Mombasa, Kenya, the coastal city’s “twilight ladies” have ditched their skimpy “uniforms” for the much more conservative buibui—a billowing, ankle-length gown with head covering that Muslim women in the region wear. Sex workers say it lets them hide their identity, avoid arrest, and look respectable.

Unsurprisingly, Muslim women who cover themselves head to toe with the buibui aren’t exactly happy with this fashion makeover. One woman says:

I feel so embarrassed that sometimes I contemplate removing my buibui and throwing it away. The buibui has lost its respect.

In addition to the risk of being mistaken for a prostitute, there is another reason why this woman may want to reconsider covering herself head to toe: Conservative Muslim dress codes may be bad for women’s health.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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