Sudan: Authorities embarrased by woman’s brutal public whipping

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An immensely disturbing video that appeared on the internet last week has become a thorn in the side of Sudanese authorities. The video, below, shows a woman being flogged in public by police officers for wearing a pair of trousers. According to Sudanese law, committing “an indecent act or an act that violates public morals” is punishable by 40 lashes administered in public. It is considered indecent for women to wear trousers. An association for the protection and defense of women’s rights, “Stop the Oppression of Women”, has been fighting to have that law repealed.

A ghastly and nauseating video of a woman being mercilessly walloped for wearing a pair of trousers has become a thorn in the side of Sudanese authorities. Information culled from Sudanese sites indicate that the video was filmed on the fifth of December at the police headquarters in Khartoum in the presence of a court judge!

And following the video’s instant popularity, an embarrassed Sudanese government has been forced to react by announcing that an investigation has been launched to find the police officers who were involved in the act, Spanish daily, El Mundo has reported.

A repetition

According to the Sudanese Criminal Act (1991), “whoever commits an indecent act or an act that breaches public morality or wears clothes that are indecent or would breach public morality which causes annoyance to public feelings is liable to forty lashes or fine or both punishments.” But, notwithstanding the existence of the indecency laws, the brutal force applied by the police has sent shock waves around the world.

Member of the opposition National Democratic Alliance as well as “Stop the Oppression of Women”, a women’s rights movement, Mariam Ezzeddine, throws more light on the scene: “This video was shot inside Khartoum’s police headquarters, in the presence of a police judge. More than the sentence itself, what shocked the public was the particularly vicious way in which it was carried out. The video shows the policemen whip the young woman all over her body, including her face, which is against the law.

“Also, you clearly hear policemen laughing while the woman screams in pain. The officers don’t seem in the least bit disturbed by the presence of a camera: one even asks that the people who are watching the punishment be filmed, although he hides his own face when the camera turn towards him.”

The unnamed woman’s brutal whipping is not Sudan’s first. In fact, “Stop the Oppression of Women” was created following a similar predicament suffered by now famous Sudanese journalist, Lubna Hussein. Although she had escaped public flogging, Lubna Hussein had also been prosecuted for wearing “indecent” clothing.

Lubna Hussein is believed to have been arrested for wearing a pair of long, loose, green trousers under a long lose top, which covered a good part of the trousers. But fortunately for her, international media coverage saw her sentence reduced to a fine of 200 Sudanese pounds (66 dollars), which she refused to pay.

A legal act

“Since the Lubna Hussein trial, we have repeatedly demanded that this article is repealed… Six months ago, we tried to file an appeal with the Constitutional Court, but our request was not even examined. Every time we speak out or gather in public, we are systematically harassed and even arrested by police” says Mariam Ezzeddine.

According to her “the problem is that exactly what “indecent clothes” means is left for police to decide. Nothing is to stop them from arresting women on a whim, or even from carrying out a sentence without a fair trial or allowing the accused to be represented by a lawyer.

“These practices are unjustifiable acts of oppression against Sudanese women, and we refuse to let the police officers in this video go unpunished.”

Mariam Ezzeddine and thirty eight other activists were arrested by the authorities Tuesday morning during a protest march to the regional parliament in Khartoum.

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