Women whipped for wearing knee-length skirts: discrimination and cruelty in Sudan

We have a new campaign briefing out today, urging the authorities in Sudan to abolish the practice of flogging, which is normally used against women.

Women in Sudan  face a daily risk of being arbitrarily arrested in public or private places for “indecent or immoral behaviour or dress”. Public Order Police Officers in Sudan have the power to decide what is decent and what is not.

And in most cases women are arrested for wearing trousers or knee length skirts.

Such behaviour can be punishable by up to 40 lashes under Article 152 of Sudan’s Criminal Act 1991. Judges have even exceeded the legal limit in some instances and punished women and girls by up to 50 lashes.

Not only is the offence discriminatory, as it’s used mainly against women; it’s also an unfair restriction of people’s right to freedom of expression. And the punishment itself – thrashing someone with a whip – is cruel, inhuman and degrading.

The way Article 152 is administered is almost as astonishing as the punishment itself. One 16 year old girl from Southern Sudan described how she was walking in Khartoum when she noticed that a man was following her. After a while she stopped and asked him to stop following her. He grabbed her and took her to a nearby police station where he asked that she be punished for dressing indecently.

The girl was wearing a knee-length skirt. Her stalker was a plain-clothed police officer.

She was prevented from contacting anyone and was immediately taken to a criminal court where she was charged under Khartoum’s public order law and article 152 of the 1991 Criminal Act for dressing indecently. She was sentenced to lashing, which was carried-out in the presence of the judge.

You can download the briefing here – it also asks people to write to Sudan’s President al-Bashir, urging him to abolish the use of flogging altogether.

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