Sudanese young women face flogging for wearing trousers
By Sophia Blake, Children's Human Rights Network
When I was 15 I went through a (thankfully brief) phase of wearing all blue outfits. Blue top, blue boots, I even had blue mascara. It might be embarrassing to admit to now but I imagine experimenting with clothes and appearance was a significant part of most people's adolescences.
Choosing what you wear can be a way to express identity and show the world who you are, or want to be. Or maybe you choose your clothes based on comfort and practicality, dressing to your preferences and how you’re spending the day. Either way it seems clear that how you get dressed in the morning should be a personal choice.
But for girls growing up in Sudan this is not the case. Sudan is a predominantly Muslim country which operates under Sharia law. The country has strict decency laws which can see, amongst other things, women and girls flogged for wearing trousers or the wrong length skirt.
A strict moral code
Under Article 152 of Sudan’s Criminal Act the Public Order Police (known as the ‘morality police’) can arrest a man or woman they believe to be ‘causing annoyance to public feelings’ through their appearance. This is a crime punishable by flogging, a fine, or both.
On 25 June a group of 12 young women were arrested outside a church in Khartoum. 10 of the group were told that their clothing violated Article 152 and were detained. The women claim they were verbally harassed as they were held in the cells. Three of the women are under 18.
Fardous Al-Toum, who is 19 years old has been fined and sentenced to 20 lashes, although this has not yet been carried out. Rehab Omer Kakoum, 18 years old, has been fined and three women have recently been found 'innocent' of their charges. The rest of the women are still awaiting court proceedings.
Subjective and discriminatory
Decency laws are notoriously subjective and vaguely worded. This leaves a huge amount of discretion to the enforcers, the 'morality police', and means you can never be sure if you will targeted. Such laws are discriminatory towards the minority non-Muslim population. The laws are also heavily gendered and, although the Criminal Act applies to both men and women, it is disproportionately women who are prosecuted under it
Sudan’s moral codes can have a serious impact on the children who grow up under them. They create a culture of fear, discriminate against vulnerable minorities and subject young girls and boys to public punishment and shaming which affect their social standing and future prospects.
All children have a right to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination. Sudan is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which codify these rights in international law.
Call on Sudan to protect the rights of these women and the many other girls and boys growing up under Sudan's decency laws.
Please take action online or write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:
- Urging the Sudanese authorities to drop the charges against the 10 female Christian students immediately and unconditionally
- Calling on them to abolish the penalty of flogging, which violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- Urging them to repeal Article 152 of the 1991 Criminal Act, which is vague and discriminatory and fails to adhere to Sudan’s international human rights obligations.
Please send appeals to:
HE Omar Hassan Ahmad alBashir
Office of the President
PO Box 281
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
Awad Al Hassan Alnour
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 302
Al Nil Avenue
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Minister of Interior
Ismat AbdulRahman Zain AlAbdin Ministry of Interior
PO Box 873
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