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Sudanese women present gender-responsive constitutional vision

September 23 - 2022 KHARTOUM
A group of 40 women presented gender-responsive constitutional vision in Khartoum yesterday after two weeks of workshops organised by UNITAMS and UNDP (social media)
A group of 40 women presented gender-responsive constitutional vision in Khartoum yesterday after two weeks of workshops organised by UNITAMS and UNDP (social media)

After a two-week-long workshop series organised by the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a group of Sudanese women presented a new unified gender-responsive constitutional vision. Meanwhile, the Sudanese Professionals Association rejected the recent draft constitution proposed by the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA).

In the workshop series, 40 women active in civil society organisations, feminist groups, political parties, rebel movements, and universities came together to formulate a unified gender-responsive constitutional vision over a period of two weeks. The participants presented their conclusions yesterday to the Trilateral Mechanism and foreign diplomats.

As UNITAMS published on their website, the women’s outcome document consists of guiding principles and key clauses to be included in any upcoming constitutional document to ensure women’s rights and meaningful participation in Sudan.

“Recognising the role of women and their meaningful participation in the success of the revolution, we affirm our commitment to the principles of gender equality in all aspects of political, economic, social, cultural, developmental, and environmental spheres,” the women stated.

The constitutional vision is guided by the principles of human rights, non-discrimination, equal citizenship, the rule of law, and the link between gender equality and democracy, UNITAMS’ press release stated.

The outcome document also proposes a set of clauses to ensure women’s equal participation in governance structures, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and the judiciary and policy-making forums during and after the transition.

The women also proposed specific clauses to ensure that national laws are consistent with international standards to protect against gender-based violence including domestic violence, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, and child marriage.

Other provisions focus on ensuring women’s equal right to land ownership, to pass down citizenship, and to access justice equitably.

'What is clear today is that there are women who can play leadership roles across the spectrum' - Volker Perthes

Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan and head of UNITAMS, said: “We don’t see many women in the leadership of the political parties, armed movements, and political groups that we engage every day. But what is clear today is that there are women who can play leadership roles across the spectrum”.

He further added that “designating quotas for women’s participation is one thing, but just as important is ensuring that women’s participation is meaningful.”

The diplomats and members of the Trilateral Mechanism discussed ways to support women’s leadership efforts in “claiming their rightful space in any upcoming constitution drafting process and in Sudan’s political future” with the participants, UNITAMS said.

Volker Perthes addresses the room during the presentation of the new gender-responsive constitutional vision (social media)


Political visions and draft constitution

Many different groups in Sudan are currently working on their political visions for Sudan’s democratic transition and its future constitution.

Recently, the Sudanese Bar Association (SBA) drafted a constitutional framework. The draft constitution received support from a number of pro-democratic political forces, who proposed some amendments and approved the final version earlier this month.

Many international embassies and the Trilateral Mechanism also considered the document as a “serious and encouraging initiative” and offered support to the SBA’s “continued efforts to include a vast array of civilian political parties and forces" in the initiative.

Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) leader El Hilu, however, said that the proposed constitution resists radical change and now the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) renewed its rejection of the draft transitional constitution too.

The SPA, the driving force behind the revolution that started in Sudan in December 2018 and overthrew the Al Bashir regime, considers it an attempt “to flee forward to a settlement with the military by ensuring their impunity and a safe exit”.

'The SBA's draft constitution is an attempt to flee forward to a settlement with the military by ensuring their impunity and a safe exit' - SPA

El Waleed Ali, spokesperson for the SPA, told Radio Dabanga yesterday that “the project is premature and bypasses consensus on a political charter of the forces of the Sudanese revolution,” referring to the charters of the Sudanese resistance committees.

He explained that the draft constitution does not express the will of the Sudanese people and the unified political charter soon to be announced by the resistance committees.

The SPA further categorically refuses to hold any elections before dismantling the elements of the former regime. If early elections take place, “this will mean a demolition of the idea of ​​the transitional period”.

Renowned political scientist Atta El Battahani also said that any talk of early elections in Sudan means legitimising the present junta, which can be seen as ‘turning back the clock’ to the regime of Omar El Bashir, Medameek News reported.

In a paper presented at a conference on the role of civil society organisations in the upcoming elections, organised by El Ayam Centre for Cultural and Development Studies in Khartoum on Monday, El Battahani stressed that proposals of the international community about holding general elections “is against reality and means repetition of failed experiments”.

“Talking about any political or constitutional document without taking into account the sharp divisions in the structure of Sudanese society will only lead to new failures and imperfect transition experiences,” he said.

The political scientist pointed out that “the current transition in Sudan is a complex one, whose chronic crises must be addressed, such as ethnic, tribal, religious, patriarchal, and class divisions”.

The “erosion of political life over the past thirty years” should also be addressed according to El Battahani, calling for "the establishment of a new social contract” in which the public is encouraged to participate in the political sphere.

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