Women rally in Sudan to demand equal rights

Women activists call for the repeal of discriminatory laws and for Sudan to adopt “international charters and treaties on gender equality.”
Friday 09/04/2021
Sudanese women hold a banner as they take part in a rally against the oppression of women, in Oumdurman the capital Khartoum’s twin city. (AFP)
Sudanese women hold a banner as they take part in a rally against the oppression of women, in Oumdurman the capital Khartoum’s twin city. (AFP)

KHARTOUM – Hundreds of women demonstrated in Khartoum on Thursday demanding reforms to ensure equality, two years on from the mass protests that led to the fall of dictator Omar Bashir.

“No to laws discriminating against women,” one placard read, waved by women as they marched through the streets of the capital.

“We call on the government… to have the courage to continue the civilising of the state,” a coalition of women’s rights groups wrote in a letter addressed to the prime minister and justice minister.

The letter also demands the repeal of discriminatory laws and for Sudan to adopt “international charters and treaties on gender equality.”

Thursday’s protest illustrates the wider divisions that remain after the decades of Bashir’s authoritarian grip on power.

His government imposed a harsh form of Islamic law, criminalising everything from drinking alcohol to women wearing “revealing” clothes.

Sudan is a Muslim-majority nation, but also includes large numbers of Christians as well as indigenous beliefs.

Last year, the government scrapped public order laws which empowered policemen to take action against people dressed “indecently” and also permitted non-Muslims to consume alcohol.

It also decriminalised conversion from Islam.

Those reforms triggered street protests slamming the decisions as “anti-Islamic.”

Sudanese women hold a banner as they take part in a rally against the oppression of women, in Oumdurman the capital Khartoum’s twin city. (AFP)
Sudanese women hold a banner as they take part in a rally against the oppression of women, in Oumdurman the capital Khartoum’s twin city. (AFP)

“Islamists usually play on the religious chord which is a very sensitive subject in the Sudanese society,” said Sudanese analyst Othman Mirghani.

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since the army toppled Bashir in April 2019, following months of nationwide protests against his rule.

A transitional government was established four months after Bashir was deposed.

It is made up of a sovereign council, Sudan’s highest executive authority and a cabinet, combining military and civilian figures.

Bashir himself is on trial over the Islamist-backed 1989 coup that brought him to power. He is also also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.