Mexico Church Assailed For Fashion Comment

President Barack Obama waves upon his arrival at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Friday, Nov. 13, 2009.
AP Photo/Koji Sasahara
A Catholic priest's condemnation of miniskirts on an official church Web site is causing outrage among some Mexican women, who say the Roman Catholic Church is making it easier to justify sexual violence against women.

The Rev. Sergio G. Roman sounded the alarm against miniskirts in an online publication to prepare Catholics for a church family-values forum next year in Mexico City.

"When we show our body without prudence, without modesty, we are prostituting ourselves," wrote Roman, a Mexico City priest.

Mexican newspaper columnists lampooned the article, and women's rights advocates have assailed it.

Women dressed in miniskirts and low-cut shirts have rallied at the doors of Mexico City's Cathedral during Sunday Mass, carrying signs that read: "Clothed and naked, I am the same."

Guadalupe Loaeza, a renowned Mexican social commentator, said she worries the priest's statements will be taken seriously and make it acceptable to blame the victim.

"It gives rapists permission to say, 'Well, she had on a miniskirt,"' Loaeza said. "What the church says has credibility - that's why this type of statement is so dangerous."

The archdiocese says the news media have twisted Roman's words and that the article was meant only to provide "moral guidance for the Catholic community."

Skimpy outfits are a common sight on national TV broadcasts in Mexico, but are still frowned upon in most social settings.

Roman's statements echo recent comments by government authorities elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A police superintendent in Jamaica called on women last week to dress with greater modestly to curb rapes on the island.

After an 8-year-old girl was gang-raped by five men at a market in Montego Bay, Steve McGregor blamed rapes this summer partly on girls wearing short shorts and tiny bathing suits.

McGregor was criticized by a Jamaican group that monitors the portrayal of women in the media.

"It's time we stop penalizing the victims," said Afola Shade, the director of Women's Media Watch. "There are men raping babies. Can babies dress skimpily? I think it's time we stop this foolishness now."