New report: Public order laws in Sudan continue to be used to punish and control women

REDRESS / SIHA JOINT PRESS RELEASE

The report, Criminalisation of Women in Sudan: A Need for Fundamental Reform, shows how public order laws, designed to protect morality, continue to disproportionately target women, who can face long spells in jail and flogging for infractions such as wearing ‘trousers’.

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) and REDRESS have published today a report that relies on the personal experiences of Sudanese women caught up in the arbitrary application of Sudan’s public order laws.

Focusing on Khartoum state, the reports describes the experiences of some of the women most affected by the application of these laws, including alcohol brewers and sellers, human rights defenders, female students and migrant women.

The report concludes that Sudan’s public order laws, which have enforced strict moral codes since the introduction of Sharia laws in 1983, have been further extended and continue to be used in an arbitrary manner specifically oppressing women.

Women interviewed for the report described facing long spells in jail and punishments such as lashing for public order law infractions such as wearing trousers, which is considered an “indecent dress”.

The report recounts the experiences of these women within a flawed justice system, from the moment of their arrest and detention to their trial before public order courts and the imposition of sentences (which may include corporal punishment such as flogging) and imprisonment.

The report underscores that Sudan’s public order laws – which contain a mix of criminal and moral prohibitions which blur the distinction between the enactment of law for the public interest and the imposition of moral precepts based on religious convictions – effectively control women’s engagement in public life.

“Sudanese women are the mirror of the injustices and discriminatory nature of Sudan’s legal system. These laws as long as they continue to serve 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 the country to progress and to live in peace,” said Hala Alkarib,  Regional Director of SIHA Network.

The report shows that Sudan’s public order laws entrench human rights violations in law and fail to comply with Sudan’s regional and international human rights obligations. The report calls on the Sudanese Government to repeal these laws.

“The atmosphere created by these public order laws is one of fear and self-censorship as women are never aware of when or for what reason they might be arrested,” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS. “These laws are not about morality, but about perpetuating the control of the Sudanese Government over its citizens, particularly women. We call on Sudan to put an end to these unlawful and discriminatory laws.”

For more information, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS Head of communications (English, Spanish) on 020 7793 1777; 07857 110076 (out of hours) or eva@redress.org OR Martha Tukahirwa, SIHA NETWORK Communications Officer (English) on +256 759 286263; +256 790 213969 (out of hours) or martha@sihanet.org