Sudanese WHRDs at The Frontlines
The report on the Situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights Defenders, reflects the situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights Defenders during the period from 2009-2012. In this report we try to highlight the main challenges facing WHRDs in Sudan, and document the escalating violations against them by state and non-state actors. The work of Sudanese WHRDs in the period covered in this report is the most risky and affected by the fundamental changes which took place during the 3 years this report documents.
The secession of South Sudan in July 2011 created new challenges, especially in North Sudan where just months later a new civil war began in what became known as “the new south” (in the region of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile). Additionally, the conflict in Darfur continued to escalate since 2002.
Women’s Movements in Sudan took many turns through modern history, but the situation of Sudanese women is interconnected with the country’s complicated sociopolitical history, and ethnic power relations, that define the power and wealth distribution in the community. The situation of women, both activists and non-activists, is deeply affected by the historical developments and ethnic power relations which created the modern Sudanese state and society. Throughout this report we follow Sudanese women human rights defenders struggles, triumphs and risks. Reminding us of the situation of Sudanese Women Human Rights defenders, their achievements, the violations they deal with the increased risks they encounter during their human rights work.
Since 2009 a new wave of women’s movement in Sudan began when Sudanese women human rights defenders started the new approach of direct confrontation with the government and the conservative Sudanese community. Women took their rejection of discriminating laws and social patriarchy to the streets, demonstrating against the legislations that degraded women’s dignity. Laws such as articles 151-152 of the Criminal Act of 1991 , and the Khartoum Public Order Act of 1998 which controls women’s movements and appearances on the public space, and contains humiliating punishments like whipping in public for the crime of wearing so called “indecent clothing”. One of the main challenges facing WHRDs are struggles with Sudanese government officials who act with impunity, hindering justice for the WHRDs.
In 2011 Sudanese people, inspired by the Arab spring, took the streets, demanding regime change. Women and youth led this movement, which was violently cracked down on by the Sudanese authorities. Women found themselves victims of rape, detention and prosecution. At least 150 women were detained, sexually abused or tortured, while dozens were injured and beaten in the protests. The protests against the regime broke down again in June 2012, when the attack on women human rights defenders was more violent. Fourteen women were detained for more than 5 weeks, while another 100 wee detained for days or hours during the 2 months of demonstrations. The police used live ammunition against protestors, killing Tahany, a 17 years old female student protester. The police fired rubber bullets against peaceful protester which led to the injury of four WHRDs. Women Human rights defenders in Sudan are living at risk, without supporting networks or protection mechanism from either the government or NGOs. The lack of capacity of human rights NGOs in Sudan and the firm restriction forced on them by the Sudanese government means WHRDs face risks which could lead to them losing their lives, while simultaneously their work is highly underestimated and not documented. Sudanese WHRDs, work in a violent environment, putting their lives at risk, while they have no support or protection networks of any kind and they are disconnected from the regional and international protection and support mechanisms.