Sudan: Girl lashed 50 times for "indecent" skirt
A 16-year-old south Sudanese girl was lashed 50 times after a judge ruled her knee-length skirt was indecent, her lawyer and family said in the latest case to push Sudan's Islamic law into the spotlight. The mother of teenager Silva Kashif told Reuters on Friday [Nov 27] she was planning to sue the police who made the arrest and the judge who imposed the sentence, as her daughter was underage and a Christian. The case will add fuel to a debate already raging over Sudan's decency laws after this year's high-profile conviction of Sudanese U.N. official Lubna Hussein, who was briefly jailed for wearing trousers in public.
Hussein, a former journalist who used her case to campaign against Sudan's public order and decency regulations, is touring France to publicise her book about the prosecution. She had faced the maximum penalty of 40 lashes but was given a lighter sentence. [Please see WLUML's Call for Action on the case of Lubna Hussein: http://www.wluml.org/node/5423]
Kashif, whose family comes from the south Sudanese town of Yambio, was arrested while walking to the market near her home in the Khartoum suburb of Kalatla last week, her mother Jenty Doro told Reuters.
"She is just a young girl but the policeman pulled her along in the market like she was a criminal. It was wrong," said Doro.
Doro said Khashif was taken to Kalatla court where she was convicted and punished by a female police officer in front of the judge.
"I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried ... People have different religions and that should be taken into account," she said.
Arrests for indecency, drunkenness and other public order offences are not uncommon in Khartoum which is governed by Islamic sharia law.
But the punishment of residents of the capital originating from the south remains a sensitive issue.
Sudan is supposed to be working to soften the impact of sharia for southerners living in Khartoum under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war. The deal lifted sharia law in the south, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs.
Women's groups argue the decency laws are too vague, giving the country's separate public order police too much freedom to decide what kind of dress is appropriate.
Kashif's lawyer Azhari al-Haj told Reuters he was preparing a case against the police and judge for arresting and sentencing an underage girl. He said according to the law, people under 18 should not be given lashes.
"She was wearing a normal skirt and blouse, worn by thousands of girls. They didn't contact a guardian and punished her on the spot."
Al-Haj said he was hoping to win compensation and to clear Kashif's record. "We are also against the law itself. We want the law to be changed."
Nigerian football star Stephen Worgu this month said he had been sentenced to 40 lashes after being wrongly convicted of drunk driving in Khartoum. The sentence has been postponed pending an appeal.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)