Lifestyle & Belief

Zimbabwe bans sale of secondhand underwear


A Chinese trader presents some underwear to a client at her shop in central Dakar, Senegal. Zimbabwe has banned the import and sale of secondhand underwear. Other countries in Africa, including Ghana, have undertaken similar measures.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe's finance minister made a shocking discovery recently about the underwear-buying habits of his countrywomen: he learned that many buy secondhand lingerie at flea markets and used clothing stalls.

“How does that happen?" Tendai Biti asked incredulously, according to NewsDay. "If you are a husband and you see your wife buying underwear from the flea market, you would have failed.”

To stop this practice, Biti introduced a ban on hand-me-down underpants that has now been made into law.

The new legislation makes it illegal to import or sell “articles of secondhand undergarments of any type, form or description, whether purchased, donated or procured in any other manner."

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NewsDay, a Zimbabwean newspaper, called it "one of the best laws that our country has put in place in recent years."

The practice of wearing used underwear is "humiliating," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Wearing used underwear is most dehumanizing and no government worth its salt should allow its citizens to be abused to this extent. It is a fact that our flea markets receive bales of clothing, some of which is exclusively used underwear – some of which is soiled." 

"What nation have we become that knowingly subjects its people to humiliation and disease?"

Under the new legislation, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority will charge heavy taxes and duties on all underwear imports, plus a $3 penalty for every kilogram of underwear entering the country.

Zimbabwe is not the first African country to outlaw the sale of used underpants.

Rwanda has banned the sale of secondhand underwear as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Ghana officially banned the practice in 1994, but only started enforcing the law last year after concerns that those wearing secondhand underpants risked infections.

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