Target: His Excellency Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, President of Sudan
Goal: Free woman facing forty lashes for failing to wear a headscarf
Sudanese women’s rights activist Amira Osman Hamed has been imprisoned for violating of Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Act. Her crime: failing to wear a headscarf in public. For this, she faces whipping as a punishment. Sign the petition urging Sudanese authorities to let Hamed go, and demand that Sudan get rid of corporeal punishment altogether.
Article 152 of the 1991 Criminal Act states that anyone who “wears an indecent or immoral dress, which causes annoyance to public feelings, shall be punished, with whipping, not exceeding forty lashes, or with a fine, or with both.” According to Amnesty International, “Article 152 is part of a broader set of laws and practices, known as the public order regime which allows the imposition of corporal punishment for what is seen as immoral behaviour [sic] in public, or sometimes in private.” Amnesty acknowledges that the law affects “a wide range of people” but notes that women are especially likely to be affected by it.
Because Article 152 does not specify exactly what constitutes “indecent or immoral dress,” the Public Order Police (POP) have a lot of leeway in determining what constitutes violations of the law, making it difficult for women like Amira Osman Hamed to defend the legality of their actions. The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that “the vaguely-worded law leaves women subject to police harassment and disproportionately targets the poor in an effort to maintain ‘public order.'”
Amira Osman Hamed has been arrested for violations of Article 152 on one previous occasion. In that instance, she was ordered to pay a fine for wearing pants in public. That she now faces torture for simply refusing to wear a headscarf–a choice she should be free to make for herself–simply highlights the ridiculous and oppressive nature of the law. Women should be free to choose their manner of dress for themselves, whether or not that manner includes articles like headscarves or pants. Sign the petition and demand that Amira Osman Hamed be freed, and demand that the Sudanese government eliminate whippings as punishments.
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of human rights, but for women like Amira Osman Hamed, it is a right that is too often denied. Hamed faces up to forty lashes–simply for refusing to wear a headscarf in public. As an adult, she should be free to make her own choices regarding her mode of dress and not face persecution as the result of a law that activists claim disproportionately affects the poor and leaves woman vulnerable to police harassment. I strongly urge you to drop the charges against Amira Osman Hamed, and I demand that Sudan do away with corporeal punishment immediately.
Article 152 of the 1991 Criminal Act forbids “indecent or immoral dress” but does not elaborate on what might constitute unacceptable forms of dress. This ambiguity leaves those subject to the law–particularly women–subject to harassment and arbitrary legal action. Furthermore, the harsh punishments levied upon those who violate the law are unnecessarily cruel and according to Amnesty International, are “in violation of the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
I demand justice for Amira Osman Hamed and all other Sudanese women. Drop the charges against Amira Osman Hamed and immediately do away with the archaic, inhumane, and unnecessary punishment of whipping.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Orrling via Wikimedia Commons