Sudanese Women's Dress Codes and African Protocols for Women's Rights, projects with Salmmah Women's Resource Centre, Sudan
Salmmah addresses women issues specially violence against women. Salmmah is leading an on-going campaign on the "Rape Law Reform" that aims to reform article 149 in the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act on rape, and participates in the "Dress Code" campaign focusing on article 152 "indecent acts" in the 1991 Criminal Act, that gives the perpetrator (police officer) all the right to judge the victim women/girl according to his own manners and beliefs and in all cases in an inhumane way. It will also address the public order unit as a tool through which the public order police has the authority to arrest the women/girls denying their rights and freedom through which all the international treaties and conventions has given them. The working environment in Sudan for all the civil society especially those dealing with women issues are harsh and critical. The government deals with women’s issues in a very inhumane way that in itself is violence against our freedom. However Salmmah managed every time to find a way to overcome these challenges and find ways to do their work even if sometimes under a different name but serving the same goal.
SALMMAH implemented 2 projects:
- To produce a booklet for advocacy, which documents women’s dress history in Sudan photos/pictures and women testimonies (WRRC year 2)
- Advocacy Forums on: Dress Code & African Protocol for Women Rights (WRRC year 3)
Project 1 was the publication of a booklet that analyzes the history of women dress and criticizes the dress code as a tool to subordinate and suppress women’s freedom in men-dominated society. It compares women’s dress before and after the establishment of the dress code article in the Sudanese Criminal Act, and shows how such regulation is affecting the women’s freedom, dignity and self-respect.
Project 2 was a follow-up to the first project, intending to organise advocacy forums to bring concerned bodies together to form pressure groups in order to publicise the Sudanese government’s signing of the African Protocol for Women’s Human Rights and document the violations that women face from the public order police.
- To sensitize the policy makers and other concerned bodies with the issue of dress code & how it’s a tool the government use to suppress women.
- To advocate and push the government to ratify the African protocol & implement it.
- To raise the public awareness regarding the dress code and the African protocol and its importance.
The ideas for these projects came after the Sudanese government announced early 2010 under the public order police in continuation of their suppression and humiliation to women formulated a new committee to develop and set criteria’s for decent women’s dress and behavior and to identify the types of violations with which women will be charged. These statements and steps create a direct threat and humiliation and act of violence towards women in Sudan. In addition to that, the Sudanese government ironically has signed the African protocol for Women Rights as one of the main tools that calls for women empowerment and justice, but still nothing have not changed. And if ratified and implemented this will help to improve the women situation in Sudan dramatically and end most of their problems.
Therefore the idea of advocacy forums came to be as a step forward to bring concerned bodies together to form pressure groups in order to lobby the government in these two issues. In addition to information materials that will disseminate the signature of the Sudanese government to the African protocol and document the violations that women face from the public order police.
Salmmah’s main work is legal advocacy, however the the forums created spaces for concerned people to discuss the issues freely and find solutions, and through the information materials the community was empowered with increasing their knowledge on these issues.
The project outputs were:
- Dress code forum;
- African protocol forum;
- Production of one pamphlets and one booklet.
- Two pressure group was created during the dress code and African protocol forums from lawyers and activists who took the responsibility to lobby the government to reform the laws, putting in minds the protocols they already ratified;
- Increased number of people aware with these issues and ready to work with the groups formed.
In the long run Salmmah hopes that policies, laws and regulations that are concerned with women issues are reformed in a way that ensure their dignity, respect and well being. This will not take place only through hard and collaborative work from all the society.
Below see the book Salmmah produced on Sudanese Women's Dress history, a small booklet on the dress code, which documents and analyses all the 2010 print news coverage related to women dress code (in Arabic), and another small booklet on the different protocols under the African union that the Sudanese government signed or ratified (in Arabic).