Police in Sudan routinely rape and sexually abuse female human rights activists accused of civil dissent using modesty laws as an excuse.
Civil rights campaigners have been agitating against the country’s harsh laws prompting a regime backlash.
The 61-page report is entitled Good Girls Don’t Protest’: Repression and Abuse of Women Human Rights Defenders, Activists, and Protesters in Sudan.
Taken from interviews with more than 85 female activists in Sudan, the report shows how Sudanese authorities take advantage of Islamist-imposed modesty codes to harass, intimidate and molest women.
These laws prohibit women from wearing trousers and from physical contact with men they are not related to in public places. They also mandate that women must wear a headscarf at all times.
Police are reported to use these laws as an opportunity to target female human rights activists. These policies are reported to have been in place since a military coup brought to power the National Islamic Front of Omar al-Bashir in 1989.
“Three of them took turns, and raped me,” one activist said of her abuse at the hands of the police, reporting to Human Rights Watch. “I was in a lot of pain. My hands were tied with my headscarf.”
“Sudanese women who defend human rights experience political repression like their male colleagues but are also vulnerable to sexual assault and intimidation because they are women,” said Daniel Bekele, the Africa director of HRW. “Sudanese security officials often take advantage of discriminatory laws and social conventions to silence them.”