About Sudan women facing flogging on a day to day bases
By Hala Alkarib
September 25, 2013 - For 25 years now, women in Sudan have been flogged publically. The current Sudanese regime’s ideology was clear from day one; terrorizing women which amounts to paralyzing a whole nation. Like all dogma in political Islam, the regime sat and agreed that the road to secure their position was through controlling women’s bodies, minds, existence and interaction in public. Their misogynistic ideology is based on women being evil, problematic and in need of being disciplined and controlled, and that women are both dangerous and the main instigator of immorality, equally responsible for all evil in society, hence the need to be told how to behave in public.
“It’s not enough to talk to them; we have to punish them and install fear in their minds because they are not intelligent and are spiritually unfit. Their fathers and husbands are unable to control them”. This, is the story of article 152 of the Sudan criminal code- ‘Indecent and Immoral acts’ upon which Amira Osman, a Sudan activist, is currently undergoing trial, and under which thousands of invisible poor women have already been tried, sentenced and publically lashed.
Their laughter is seen as a crime, their presence provoking sin. This is how the regime vaguely drafted article 154 of the criminal code - ‘practicing prostitution.” The article defines a ‘place of prostitution’ as ‘any place designated for the meeting of men and women between whom there is no marital relationship, or kinship, in circumstances in which the exercise of sexual acts is probable to occur.’ Thousands of women are being charged under this article every day, inside their homes and work places. The breadth of interpretation allowing for effectively any public place in which a woman can be in the same room as an unrelated man can be tried under this article. The offence of possession of materials and displays contrary to public morality of article 153 has exposes thousands of young women to the madness of the public order police and deprived them of simply living normally and with dignity. The Sudan public order laws vagueness and elusiveness are deliberately allowing judges and the law enforcers to employ their own self - making interpretations of the law, hence the legal system turned into self serving machinery manipulated and twisted against women presence and participation in public .
Sara is a 25 year old artist and school teacher at a private school. Early this year, while on her way back home, she was stopped and picked on by the public order police. She was wearing trousers and a long sleeved T- shirt. She was sexually assaulted, verbally humiliated and then charged under article 152 for wearing trousers. According to her story, by the time they picked her up, there were 12 other women inside the vehicle all picked randomly by the public order police while walking on public roads, none of them had committed any crime, all were just walking and minding their own business. They detained them for 24 hours, confiscated their phones and in the morning, the judge called them by name and when her name was called out Sara says the Judge asked her “ what do you want 40 lashes or paying 1000 SDP” She said she only had 10 pounds, then he yelled “40 lashes “ and the soldier grabbed her.
They took her to the yard inside the detention, made her sit on the sand floor and they started whipping her. “After 10 extremely painful lashes she said, I was numbed and I could only hear the mocking and the laughter of the soldiers standing around and asking the flogger to beat harder.
44 year old Halima brews alcohol locally and sells it to men from all over. She is the breadwinner of her family of 6 children and 2 elderly parents all waiting for her to take care of them. She said she has been flogged and jailed many times. “Every time they come they take away the alcohol, re-sell it to consumers or they drink it and beat me for making it.
Amena, 56 years old, sells tea next to a private hospital. She says “they kept taking my kettle and cups all the time, sometimes they flog me, or if I have some money I give them. These days I found a place next to the graveyard to sell my tea. I still get customers but the police hardly come close to me I think the dead in our country are more powerful than the living.”
The tale of these women reflects more or less how millions of Sudan women living .
Hundreds of women flocked to court to attend Amira Osman’s trial a Sudan activist who was charged under Article 152 for not covering her hair with a scarf, however it was postponed until 4th November 2013. These women will not give up their humanity and dignity despite the wipe on their heads.
The battle against Sudan’s Public Oder Regime, infused within the criminal code of the country, has been going on for years across. The POR has been utilized to repress women compromising their livelihoods and impoverishing them, and limiting their participation in public life, sport, cultural activities and mobility as well as it being deployed to limits women’s political participation. The Sudanese Discriminatory laws and the POR are affecting communities for generations to come by imposing the subordination of women in the mindset of the younger generation and hence taking away any potential for progress and peace.
The writer is the Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) a Horn of Africa based women coalition. For more information on Sudan POR please go to: http://www.sihanet.org/content/beyond-trousers