Therefore, the foundation of the thought process here aims to explore the question on what power, if any, did and do women’s bodies hold historically, and how can we harness that power to dismantle current systems of colonial oppression.
First, by their very nature, naked protests disrupt societal expectations and challenge deeply ingrained patriarchal norms regarding female bodies and their visibility. In that, most African societies, if not all, construct the female naked body as profane, indecent, shameful, and sexual, never to be displayed in public, therefore requiring women to remain covered else they face various forms of violence that is then justified in the legal structure as well as the societal structure. Therefore, the deliberate act of stripping down to one's bare skin in public spaces evokes shock, discomfort, and controversy, thereby actively challenging society and provoking a visceral response, ultimately forcing society to confront its biases and repressive structures, especially when all other forms of activism and advocacy has failed.
Second, in understanding naked protests as a decoloniality tool, we must also understand the process of coloniality. Coloniality, defined as the set of attitudes, values, ways of knowing, and power structures upheld as normative by western colonising societies and serving to rationalise and perpetuate western dominance is an extremely patriarchal and exploitative process that uproots the cultures and identity of an entire country. Whereas Decoloniality refers to a critical framework that challenges the ongoing impacts of colonialism and colonial legacies on various aspects of society, including culture, politics, economics, and knowledge systems.
The need for decoloniality holds space in the understanding that the social and gender norms and expectations placed on women’s bodies have a colonial legacy, that falls within coloniality- the imposition of western values and attitudes on colonised countries. That is, the introduction of Victorian clothing and styles as the modest and preferred form of clothing for African women and girls. Thus, the act of stripping one’s body in protest radically and directly challenges the attitudes, expectations and values imposed on women’s bodies , and the act of stripping naked in public in protest, radically and directly challenges the power structures that uphold those values and attitudes.
Decolonial feminism seeks to dismantle the power structures and systems of oppression that have been perpetuated by colonialism. Naked protests challenge the colonial gaze, which exoticises and fetishises women of color, by centering their bodies and experiences in the struggle for liberation. Naked protests disrupt the expectations from women and their bodies, as well as the Western-centric, Eurocentric beauty standards that have been imposed throughout the colonial history and are still widely present to date.
Furthermore, they have been key to reclaiming agency and autonomy over the female body, by exposing it in its most vulnerable and natural state, by tapping into the cultural beliefs and traditions that protect the woman’s body- in doing so, these protests challenge the commodification and objectification of women's bodies that exists today and demands that society recognises them as more than objects of desire.
Last, naked protests challenge the boundaries of public space, questioning who has the right to occupy and define it. Historically, public spaces have been dominated by male bodies and patriarchal values, leaving little room for women's voices and experiences. By reclaiming public space, African women assert their presence and demand recognition. The radicalism lies not only in the act itself but also in the subversion of societal norms that restrict women's bodies to private domains.
Overall, the significance and intersections within naked protests creates much needed pause from the status quo to hold a dialogue on the hypocrisy of modern-day governance and societal functionality. An opportunity to hold meaningful and constructive conversation on body politics, and its place within general politics. By reclaiming agency over the female body, disrupting societal norms, and contesting public spaces, naked protests serve as powerful acts of resistance.