Tech giant Google has lifted restrictions on YouTube from showing Swaziland’s famous reed dance which features bare-breasted women, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian reports.
The Mail and Guardian quotes a representative from Google as saying that they decided to remove the restriction on the videos because “it was not its policy to restrict nudity in such instances where it is culturally or traditionally appropriate”.
The move was in response to a campaign led by Lazi Dlamini, the head of TV Yabantu, an online video production company which produces content that “protects, preserves and restores African values”.
Its YouTube channel – which launched in 2016 – had been adding 3,000-4,000 new subscribers every month until the platform started to flag its content as inappropriate.
It also put a label on the channel advising advertisers that its content was “not suitable for most advertisers”.
According to Mr Dlamini, he had contacted Google to say that he was simply reflecting the cultural values of his community but the company said that the content violated the platform’s standards.
He then organised a series of protests, working with more than 200 cultural groupings from Swaziland, with the first one taking place on Saturday in Durban.
It included at least a dozen women who posed bare-breasted with placards that read “Google are racist” and “my breasts are not inappropriate”.
Nobukhosi Mtshali who is a student at Witz University and a campaigner for the right to express her Swazi identity says that the restrictions were an attack on her heritage:
“I, AS A SOUTH AFRICAN, WANT TO CELEBRATE MY CULTURE. HAVING MY PHOTOS LABELLED AS INAPPROPRIATE OR REGARDED AS PORN, I TAKE THAT AS A DIRECT ATTACK ON MY CULTURAL HERITAGE. I TAKE IT AS A SIGN OF IGNORANCE… IF I’M POSING IN A SEXUALLY SUGGESTIVE MANNER THAT IS ONE THING, BUT IF I’M POSTING PICTURES OF ME STANDING THERE IN MY TRADITIONAL ATTIRE, THAT IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONTEXT.