On April 29th, 2019 – Major General Hashim Khalid Mahmoud, the Governor of South Darfur State, issued emergency orders. These orders prohibited nakedness, indecent dress, and the promotion and handling of alcohol. All of these orders were authorized by the Military Council which is currently holding power in Sudan. The Major General stated that violation of these orders would incur the “imposition of the most severe penalties…[including] fines of up to 50,000 SDG, and imprisonment of up to three years”. The justification for the new orders was that “a mess has occurred. The country has fallen into chaos after the fall of Bashir!”
As women activists in the field of women’s rights, we note the dangers of such arbitrary decision-making by those in power. The issue of state and local orders at random has been at the heart of chaos in Sudan. These actions are very much in line with those by the former regime which contributed to undermining the rule of law and the marginalization of justice systems. State and local orders are issued according to the moods and whims of the powerful without any legal justification and for the purpose of dictating on vital issues of interest to the Sudanese. What happened in the state of South Darfur is an extension of the former era of injustice and degradation of women, where the powers of the outdated National Congress Party apparatus is used by the local and state order to undermine the rule of law and encroach on the rights of women.
The era of targeting and intimidating women has passed. We will not allow the new political powers to repeat such terrorist practices. We also refuse to allow women’s rights to be undermined on the grounds of Islam. We, as Sudanese women, are particularly knowledgeable about our religion and know very well where our ideological knowledge is derived. Since the 14th century, the women of Darfur have exerted all their efforts in ensuring that their religious affiliation is well-defined, however this is not basis for maltreatment and/or subjugation by any means. We urge the current military and the forces of freedom and change to avoid slipping on these issues and sacrificing the rights of women, especially women in areas of conflict that have suffered enormous injustices during the past era.
We call upon the founders of the next Sudanese civil state to be careful and abide by the rule of law and to avoid the chaos that prevailed in the former era and led to crimes against women and girls. Specifically, we demand:
- The effective and comprehensive inclusion of women in politics – emphasizing that the random selection and inclusion of women as “window dressing” to male-led processes will not be acceptable;
- The elevation of gender equality issues to a significant part of the transition process;
- The prioritization of legal reform, particularly the enactment of a family law that respects the dignity of women, children and human rights. The current system, in which women are treated as a commodity severely, undermines the concept of the family;
- The Sudanese Government and the future political parties should sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and include them in domestic law;
- The new Government should repeal all discriminatory laws and policies that undermine the rights of women and girls, ensure equal citizenship rights and equal women’s access to resources;
We stress that abusing women’s rights by assuming that the Islamic religion is opposed to women’s equality is no longer a matter for Muslim women from Sudan and the different parts of the world. The Islamic religion has stressed the equality and dignity of women and therefore the women must speak out against doctrines that promote hatred and their oppression.