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Outcry over public lashings of women in Sudan

December 10 - 2010 By Radio Netherlands Worldwide -- HILVERSUM

Graphic footage on YouTube showing a Sudanese woman being lashed have led to shocked reactions among Sudanese expats and emigrés.

Punitive public lashings are the order of the day, according to RNW's Ibrahim Jadelkarim, who is from Sudan. Tens of thousands of women are estimated to be subjected to this form of corporal punishment and public humiliation. It is unusual, however, for such scenes to be seen the world over via YouTube.

It is unclear what the woman was accused of, nor is her identity known.

YouTube has withdrawn the images from its site, arguing that the content violated the company's conditions of service. The footage can still be seen below. (Warning: these are shocking images; available at Radio Netherlands website:

Indecent behaviour
The women involved are often accused of having committed adultery, of being improperly dressed in public, or of having behaved 'indecently' in other ways. Sudanese law, which is based on islamic Sharia rules, does not specify when clothing is considered indecent. This lack of definition allows policemen free reign to determine who is looking indecent. Women who were punished for such offences are usually too ashamed to speak about it.

Journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein was arrested last year for wearing trousers, considered offensive by the authorities. Unlike other women, Lubna went public about her arrest and invited hundreds of friends and the media to attend the court session.

She told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that her action changed the way lashing is viewed in Sudan. Corporal punishment has become a human rights issue there too, and more women are seeking publicity when they are sentenced to lashings.

However shocking the YouTube video may be, possibly it does contribute to the discussion about corporal punishment in Sudan.

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