Women win right to show their faces

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

WOMEN in the Su­dan are cel­e­brat­ing — legally — af­ter a law that banned them from drink­ing al­co­hol or wear­ing cloth­ing deemed to be “re­veal­ing” was re­pealed.

Su­dan’s tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment an­nounced it had over­turned the sharia-based moral polic­ing law called the Public Or­der Act that was one of the most hated acts of the three-decade rule of top­pled au­to­crat Omar al-Bashir.

“This law is no­to­ri­ous for be­ing used as a tool of ex­ploita­tion, hu­mil­i­a­tion & vi­o­la­tion of rights,” Su­dan Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dalla Ham­dok tweeted in ref­er­ence to the over­turned law. “I pay trib­ute to the women and youth of my coun­try who have en­dured the atroc­i­ties that re­sulted from the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this law.”

The Public Or­der Act was first passed in 1992 by al-Bashir’s Is­lamist gov­ern­ment and en­forced only in the cap­i­tal Khar­toum, be­fore be­ing ap­plied na­tion­wide four years later. As well as ban­ning “re­veal­ing” cloth­ing and the drink­ing of al­co­hol, a va­ri­ety of other “of­fences” fell un­der the Act. Those con­victed of vi­o­lat­ing the law could face pri­son sen­tences, fines, lash­ing and con­fis­ca­tion of prop­erty.

For decades, hu­man rights ac­tivists have de­cried the law and ar­gued that its vague lan­guage gave the po­lice and judges lee­way to pros­e­cute women, who later played a cru­cial role in the mass protests that cul­mi­nated in alBashir’s over­throw in April.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional wel­comed the re­peal of the con­tro­ver­sial law as “a step for­ward for women’s rights”.

The Lon­don-based rights group also called on the tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment to over­turn other re­pres­sive clauses in crim­i­nal laws, in­clud­ing the use of flog­ging as a form of pun­ish­ment.

Su­dan’s sov­er­eign coun­cil and cabi­net an­nounced the de­ci­sion af­ter a 14-hour long meet­ing. It also banned alBashir’s Na­tional Congress Party and con­fis­cated all the ex-rul­ing party’s as­sets.

The sov­er­eign coun­cil grew out of a power-shar­ing agree­ment be­tween the coun­try’s rul­ing gen­er­als and pro­test­ers de­mand­ing sweep­ing po­lit­i­cal change. Un­der the deal, the coun­cil and the civil­ian-led cabi­net share leg­isla­tive pow­ers un­til a new par­lia­ment is formed.

Mr Ham­dok tweeted that the move to dis­man­tle alBashir’s party is not the out­come of “a quest of vengeance, but rather to pre­serve and re­store the dig­nity of our peo­ple who have grown weary of the in­jus­tice un­der the hands of NCP, who have looted & hin­dered the de­vel­op­ment of this na­tion”.

The Su­danese Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion, which spear­headed the up­ris­ing against al-Bashir, hailed the move as “an im­por­tant step” to­wards the es­tab­lish­ment of a demo­cratic state in Su­dan.

Su­dan’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter Nasr-Ed­din Ab­dul-Bari an­nounced the law would trans­fer all as­sets and funds of al-Bashir’s party to the state trea­sury.

“With this law, we will be able to re­trieve a lot of funds that were taken from the public trea­sury to cre­ate in­sti­tu­tions that acted as a par­al­lel state,” Mr Ab­dul-bari told re­porters af­ter the meet­ing.

Al-Bashir was ar­rested af­ter his over­throw in April. A ver­dict in his cor­rup­tion trial is sched­uled for De­cem­ber 14.

Pic­ture: AFP

Su­danese woman Alaa Salah was pro­pelled to in­ter­net fame as the leader of protests against for­mer pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir, which have fi­nally re­sulted in the re­peal of the no­to­ri­ous Public Or­der Act.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.