One conviction overturned for Sudanese woman sentenced to 20 lashes

An appeal judge has overturned the decision of the Sudan Criminal Court to fine a Sudanese Christian woman for public indecency by wearing indecent dress in court where she was appearing on a different charge of indecent dress. She was originally arrested as she left a church service in June. She is continuing to wait for the decision of an appeal court after she was unfairly sentenced to 20 lashes and a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds (£54; €76; US$84) for the alleged offence.

Fardos Al-Toum was arrested on 25 June along with eleven other Christian women, each accused of immoral or indecent dress, as they left a church service in the capital city of Khartoum. When she appeared in court on 6 July, rather than deal with the original accusation, the judge charged and convicted her for public indecency on the basis of what she was wearing in court, despite the fact that a church minister testified that her clothing was not in violation of Christian dress codes. She was sentenced to a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds (£54; €76; US$84).

Fardos again appeared before the court on 13 July on the basis of the original charges, whereupon she was sentenced to another fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds (£54; €76; US$84) as well as a suspended sentence of 20 lashes under Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code.

Mercifully, on 30 September an appeal judge overturned the trial court’s decision to bring new charges against her, of which she was formally notified on 14 October. However, she is still waiting for the decision of the appeal court regarding the sentence to 20 lashes and a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds.

According to Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code, a violation of dress codes “shall be contrary to public morals if it is regarded as such according to the standard of the person’s religion or the custom of the country where the act takes place”.

The lack of a clear definition of “indecent or immoral dress” means that it can be used to unfairly target Christian women, and it permits police to arbitrarily arrest women on this basis. Among the twelve women arrested, for example, some were wearing skirts and others were wearing trousers. Following their arrest, they were ordered to remove their clothes so that police could inspect their clothing before making formal charges.

According to Article 152, anyone found guilty of violating the Code, “shall be punished, with whipping, not exceeding forty lashes, or with a fine, or with both”.

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