Sudan Sudanese women protest worsening oppression, rising food prices

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NAIROBI, Oct 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women’s anger is mounting in Sudan as a result of surging food prices and worsening repression in the name of Islam, rights activists said on Wednesday at the launch of a report.

The cost of living has soared in Sudan since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.

Women are bearing the brunt of increasing Islamisation, illustrated by the case of Miriam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity in May.

« The economy is deteriorating and the pressure is mounting on women, » Amira Osman, who was arrested in 2013 for refusing to wear a headscarf, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

« The government is interested in controlling everything related to women Women are sent for trial on a daily basis for various reasons, ranging from the dress they put on to the time they go to work. »

In 2012, 43,000 women in Khartoum were taken to court for violating the 1996 Public Order Act, which restricts women’s activities in the name of decency, Osman said, speaking in Nairobi at the launch of a report on Sudan by the Equal Rights Trust, an advocacy group.

Provisions include a ban on men and women dancing together, a requirement that women managing hair salons must be at least 35 years old and a ban on men working as tailors for women without local authority approval.

« They look upon women as evil and devils, » Osman said. « If a woman is being harassed, she will turn from the victim into the culprit, driving that person to molest her. »

STREET PROTESTS

Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, who has been in power for 25 years, has been battling to shore up his legitimacy since South Sudan’s secession.

Dozens of people were killed in September last year in Sudan’s worst street protests for years, triggered by rising prices, which will be a key issue in its 2015 elections.

The breakaway of the predominantly Christian south has left Sudan a 97 percent Muslim country.

« They are working on a very narrow vision of Sudan as a purely Arab Islamic country, » said Dimitrina Petrova, executive director of the Equal Rights Trust.

« It is getting worse because sharia (Islamic law) is more and more enforced, it’s more and more central to the official ideology, and women are on the receiving end. »

Earlier this year, a 19-year-old pregnant divorced Ethiopian woman who had been gang raped by seven men was tried and found guilty of committing indecent acts, while three of her attackers were convicted of adultery.

The 1994 Evidence Act requires the testimony of four credible male witnesses to convict a man of a sexual offence, while a woman accusing a man of such an offence risks prosecution for adultery.

In 2013, Hassinia Alahamir Almin was convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes for giving birth outside marriage.

The 1991 Criminal Law Act defines adultery as sexual intercourse without « a lawful bond ». Married offenders can be sentenced to death, and unmarried offenders to 100 lashes.

(Reporting by Katy Migiro; editing by Tim Pearce)

 

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