AFRICA. Sudan: The Sudanese nationals have expressed fear about the creation of a new police squad, saying it is a return of a formerly scrapped unit of a police force known as ‘morality policing’. A unit that arrested and punished people, particularly women, for their behaviour.
The Sudan Police Press Office issued a clarification after the television statement of their official spokesperson, saying that the Community Police will have nothing to do with the Public Order Police and is “not an executive tool of the Public Order Law.”
The new units are said to reinstate the relationships between the Sudanese and the police force and ensure the security of life and property.
According to a women’s rights activist, Mervet Elneil, the unit is mainly targeting women and not protecting life and properties, as claimed by the government.
She continued, that it is an avenue of implementing and reinstating the already banished “morality policing” and the country has a long history of that since Sudan was under the British administration. In that last version of the community security [team], they used to target women to get money out of them.
Also expressing his grievances about the new creation, Sudanese human rights lawyer at the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Amir Suliman, noted that the recent development is worrisome and disastrous for the people of Sudan to abide by.
Sulima further affirmed that the decision is a way to clamp down on women and other weaker people in society.
“This is worrying, and it’s a disastrous decision by the police. This is a new tool to terrorize women and other weak people in society. We don’t need this new body to organize the relationship between people and the police”, Suliman said.
The Interior Ministry of Sudan has, however, confirmed that the new police unit had recently raided a home in an affluent neighbourhood of Khartoum and arrested 18 people for allegedly drinking alcohol and prostitution.
Some local media have reliably reported that courts in some parts of Sudan have continued to prosecute women for violating dress codes and people who were caught drinking alcohol.
The former police “community service unit”, which arrested and punished people, particularly women, for their behaviour, was dissolved after the ousting of former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The public order system has disproportionately affected women.
Following the repeal of the Public Order Law, former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok tweeted that “[this] law is notorious for being used as a tool of exploitation, humiliation [and] rights violations.Many have used this law for financial and psychological exploitation. Along the way, many women and young people were subjected to confiscation of their property and untold harm”.
Since the introduction of Muslim Sharia law in 1983, the infamous Public Order Act, which has been amended more than once, enforces strict moral codes by banning “indecent and immoral acts”.
Most of the offences involved interactions between men and women, dancing, choice of clothing, smoking and other personal behaviour deemed “inappropriate” by the authorities.
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