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Sudanese highlight displacement, discrimination on Women’s Day

March 8 - 2016 KHARTOUM
Women participate in a session on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in Dar El Salaam, North Darfur, on 3 November 2011 (Albert González Farran/Unamid)
Women participate in a session on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in Dar El Salaam, North Darfur, on 3 November 2011 (Albert González Farran/Unamid)

The situation of women in Sudan is one of the worst in comparison to the rest of the world, a Sudanese lawyer and displaced women said in honour of International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, lawyer Amal El Zein criticised the Sudanese Personal Status Law and Marriage Contract, described it as “the worst laws set by the government”. “The Ahwal El Shakhsiya law is unfair, as it does not give girl right to choose her own man,” El Zein said. She added that in their marriage contracts, many women are not allowed to work outside of the home. 

Personal status laws in Sudan govern legal procedures that pertain to familial relations, including marriage, and are based on the Shari'a, the divine law of Islam. A Sudanese marriage contract might reiterate the wife's right to work outside of the home.

'Displaced women today do physically demanding jobs because the men are away.'

Hanan Hassan, an official in Kalma camp for the displaced in South Darfur, said: “Displaced women suffer rapes and assaults by militiamen while going out to collect firewood.” She demanded perpetrators of such crimes to be arrested immediately and brought to justice.

“Today, displaced women do physically demanding jobs that do not fit them, such as construction work, sometimes even while a woman is pregnant or carrying a baby on her back,” Hassan said. The camps in Darfur count fewer men than women and children, mainly because they have left for the battlefields or were killed in fighting.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan, the number of people displaced by the government’s military operations in Jebel Marra since 15 January reached 96,000 by 28 February.

The camp official appealed to the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the displaced women and children in Sudan, and provide security and protection to the tens of thousands of women who have fled from the recent air raids and military operations in Jebel Marra.

In February 2015, Sudan made amendments to the criminal code that could reduce the risk of women being accused of adultery when they report rape. However, the prevalence of sexual violence reflects wider discrimination against women and girls across Sudan by the police, and in Sudanese laws, Human Rights Watch said in its ‘World Report 2016’. The crime of adultery, punishable by flogging, fines, and death by stoning, is also used discriminatorily against women.

Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a press statement that he remains 'outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement'.


Related:

AU-UN should report on rape as weapon of war in Sudan: HRW (29 January 2016)

49 women raped in Tabit, Darfur over the past year (31 October 2015)

UN experts urge Sudan to overturn 'outreageous conviction' for indecent dressing (29 August 2015)

Open dialogue needed on violence against women in Sudan: UN special rapporteur (24 May 2015)


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