Sudan is in the news again. This time it involves the caning of Silva Kashifa, a 16-year old girl who was charged with wearing indecent clothing and sentenced to 50 lashes of the cane. She was wearing a normal skirt.
Remember Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein? She was a widow and former journalist who was charged with wearing indecent clothing, which amounted to nothing more than a pair of trousers? She waived her right to immunity from prosecution as an employee of the UN Mission in Sudan, fought her way through the legal system, was finally sentenced to a fine. She refused to pay the fine, was sent to prison, but was released the next day when the journalist union paid the fine on her behalf.
While the case involving Silva Kashifa and Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein may appear similar, there is actually a big difference. She is a Christian, and below 18 years of age. Her mother Jenty Doro said she would sue the police and the judge, because the law states that those below 18 years of age should not be caned. Silva Kashifa added: “People have different religions and that should be taken into account.”
Jenty Doro has engaged a lawyer for Silva Kashifa. Her lawyer Azhari al-Haj said: ‘She was wearing a normal skirt and blouse, worn by thousands of girls”. But the judge deemed the knee length skirt worn by Silva Kashifa as indecent.
Another problem with this case involving Silva Kashifa is that her parents were not informed of her arrest and the charge against her. Lawyer Azhari al-Haj said: “They didn’t contact a guardian and punished her on the spot.” Jenny Doro said: “I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried”.
But how did Silva Kashifa get to be arrested in the first place? According to her mother, Silva Kashifa was walking alone to the market near her home in the Khartoum suburb of Kalatla when a policeman dragged her to a Islamic court to be charged. Jenty Doro said: “She is just a young girl but the policeman pulled her along like she was a criminal. It was wrong.”
So what happened at the court? Silva Kashifa was convicted of indecent dressing, and sentenced to 50 lashes of the cane. The sentence was carried out by a female police officer right in front of the judge.
Lawyer Azhari al-Haj is now preparing a case against the police and the judge for wrongful arrest and punishment. He wants to clear Silva kashifa’s conviction record, and win compensation for her.
Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein started a campaign with her own case to change Article 152 of Sudan’s criminal code under which she was charged for wearing indecent clothing. Now lawyer Azhari al-Haj has joined in the campaign. He said: “We are also against the law itself. We want the law to be changed”.
Think about it. Where will this policing of indecent clothing lead to? One time it was about trousers, then knee length skirt. In Somalia it was about wearing a bra. What next?