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Strong Sudanese women

During the June protests, the women of Sudan led many of the demonstrations and a call for a nation-wide “Kandaka Friday” was made on July 13. The term was used by the Kushites to refer to their queens.

Among the countless hardships the Sudanese people suffer at the hands of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the Sudanese Public Order Act, most notably Article 152 of the penal code is one of the most harsh:

Article 152 of the Public Order Law: Obscene and Indecent Acts: 

(1) Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals or wears an obscene outfit or contrary to public morals or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.

(2) The act shall be contrary to public morals if it is regarded as such according to the standard of the person’s religion or the custom of the country where the act takes place.

Articles 151, 152, 154 and 156 of the Sudanese criminal code enforce restrictions on women and the way they dress and behave in public. If they commit an act that is ‘deemed by an officer of the law to be in violation of these articles’, they may face a lashing sentence and in other cases be forced to pay a fine. The young lady in this video is being lashed for allegedly violating Article 152 for an undisclosed crime. As one officer lashes her and she wails in pain, the other officers watch and take perverse pleasure in her anguish.

This year in March, the month celebrating International Women’s Day every year, ripples of shock spread across Sudan and the international community after the Public Order Police shot dead Awadiya Ajabna, a woman who hails from the Nuba Mountains, right in front of her house. The police fired at her after accusing her brother of consuming alcohol. This happened in the presence of her own family. The officer who shot her is now roaming free and is even rumoured to have received a rise in salary.

But this is not the first time innocent, unarmed women have been killed in this way. Nadia Saboun used to sell tea in downtown Khartoum to passers-by. As the Public Order police patrolled past the central market two years ago, they spotted her and she fled. Selling tea on the street is considered illegal. In her flight, she was shot by the police and bled to death.

Intisar Sharif is a 15-year-old girl who has been accused of committing adultery under Article 146 of the criminal law and sentenced to death by stoning. There are two interesting sequences to Intisar’s story; the first one being that she confessed to her ‘crime’ after her brother coerced her to do so. He beat her and told her the only way she could redeem herself was by admitting her guilt and facing the consequences. The second is the fact that the judge made this ruling without prompting any further investigation into Sharif’s partner in crime.  Sharif has since been exonerated and released.

During the June protests, the women of Sudan led many of the demonstrations and a call for a nation-wide “Kandaka Friday” was made on July 13. A “kandaka” (Candace) in the Kushitic language is a title for strong women. The term was used by the Kushites to refer to their queens. Indeed the women of Sudan are brave queens; shouldering the burdens of being women in an environment dominated by the likes of the Public Order police and weathering the storms of rape, detention, emotional and physical abuse and of course social stigma.

About the author

Maha Elsanosi is a blogger and freelance writer based in Khartoum, Sudan. She is a correspondent for Global Voices and an editor and columnist for 500 Words Magazine.

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