One of the witnesses stated, “[Hussein] was wearing pants and a blouse and the pants were tight and flashy and shows from underneath it the thighs and the outline and the form of the underwear and the color of her panties that can clearly be seen which is beige in color and short shirt with sleeves up to her elbow and it is transparent and light reflecting everything inside it within such as the shape and form of the bra and that the start of her chest is showing because the blouse opening and it also has two holes on the side lengthwise from top to bottom, and there is a gap between the confluence of the shirt so that they appear able to view the navel and the underwear of the accused.”
This incident is an example of a strong-willed woman undeterred by Sudanese Government officials who consistently try to repress the freedom of expression by limiting fundamental individual rights. Women in Sudan can no longer be invisible. Any efforts to create a sustainable peace in Sudan must include women. The absence of sufficient participation by women leaders was one major flaw in the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
It is not exclusively Sudan where women because victims of sex crimes, or gross violations of human rights. Everyday there are undocumented cases of repression, like Hussein and yet the international community is still far from taking the necessary steps to protect women. This is not about clothing alone; this is the need for people in power, most often men, to restrict the movement of women by silencing them. Violence against women can take the form of silencing them by telling them to dress a certain way, or by physical violence such as rape, torture, abduction, or even psychological violence- making them feel ashamed of being a woman, making them outlaws to their families because they have “dishonored” them when they were raped or have become victims of human trafficking.
One positive step in stopping gender-based-violence was the August 18th announcement made by the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The UNAMID has set up a seven-member unit as a response to the alarming high rates of sexual and gender-based violence reported in Darfur over the last two years. This unit also seeks to encourage victims of violence to report incidents, reduce the stigmatization of sexual abuse victims and help to rehabilitate victims. This is a step in the right direction for the women of Darfur and all of Sudan, as they will investigate crimes against women such as child abuse, child abandonment, prostitution, human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual harassment. These women are the face and the future of Africa.
The U.S. government should support African efforts that address women’s empowerment and education. Secretary of State Clinton remarked in her New York Times interview on the empowerment of women in developing countries, “Democracy means nothing if half the people can’t vote, or if their vote doesn’t count, or if their literacy rate is so low that the exercise of their vote is in question. President Obama and I and the United States will not tolerate this continuation of wanton, senseless, brutal violence perpetrated against girls and women.”
While Clinton’s statement is encouraging and may attract people to become more interested in women’s rights in Africa, the Obama administration must fulfill these commitments and reflect more than just rhetoric.