Cablegate: Detention of Young Women in Juba for Wearing Trousers
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1518 2880455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140455Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2064
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001518
DEPT FOR A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: DETENTION OF YOUNG WOMEN IN JUBA FOR WEARING TROUSERS
1. SUMMARY: On October 5, 2008 28 women were arrested and detained
by Southern Sudan Police Services (SSPS) officers for wearing short
skirts or trousers. The arrests were made under the authority of a
Public Order issued by the Juba County Commissioner Albert Pitia
Redantore on October 2, 2008. It has since been rescinded by
President Salva Kiir, who sacked the Juba Country Commissioner on
October 9. END SUMMARY.
2. On October 5 police in Juba arbitrarily arrested and detained at
least 28 women, including 11 girls aged 13 to 17 years, for wearing
trousers or short skirts. No information was received on men or boys
being arrested by police, underscoring the gender discriminatory
nature of the police action. Reportedly, a female international
journalist investigating the incidents was also temporarily held by
authorities for about two hours.
3. The New Sudan Penal Code 2003 does not contain a criminal norm
prohibiting indecent dress. Instead, the police based its action on
an order issued by the Juba County Commissioner on 2 October
(without legal authority according to UNMIS Human Rights preliminary
analysis). Order 4/2008 criminalizes - quote - "all bad behaviors,
activities and imported illicit cultures."
4. On 7 October, Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir ordered the
immediate release of any women remaining in custody and ordered an
investigation into the incident. The Southern Sudan Minister for
Gender, Social Welfare and Public Affairs and the Southern Sudan
Ministry of Presidential Affairs publicly condemned the arrests. On
October 9 Kiir issued Decree 124 relieving Albert Pitia Redantore
from his office as Commissioner of Juba County after ordering an
investigation into the incident, and specifically into how the local
county order had come to be issued.
5. Cases of police arresting, intimidating or harassing women and
girls for clothing considered to be indecent by the authorities
(usually jeans, trousers or short skirts) have been repeatedly
documented by UNMIS Human Rights. Similar incidents occurred in
Malakal in October 2007, in Yei County (Central Equatoria) in June
and July 2008 and in Juba in late June 2008. Arrests for indecent
clothing have also been reported in Khartoum, where authorities base
such arrests on the Criminal Act 1991.
6. Comment: Article 152 of the Criminal Act 1991 prohibits "indecent
or immoral dress, which causes annoyance to public feelings."
However, the Southern Sudanese authorities have decided that the
Criminal Act of 1991, which claims to be sharia-based, does not
apply in Southern Sudan. It is superseded by the New Sudan Penal
Code 2003, which does not contain a prohibition of indecent dress.
The GOSS determined that the arrests, therefore, lack a valid legal
basis and must be considered arbitrary and unlawful. Their
arbitrariness is enhanced by their gender discriminatory nature
given that only women were targeted. That President Kiir acted so
swiftly to release the detainees and sack the commissioner
responsible for issuing the edict speaks well of his leadership and
commitment to human rights.