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Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 15:06 UK

Sudan outrage at trouser arrests

By Peter Martell
BBC News, Juba

Women in southern Sudan
Women tend to dress traditionally in the south in long skirts and dresses

South Sudan's government has expressed outrage after police in the capital, Juba, arrested more than 30 women for wearing tight trousers or short skirts.

Police said local officials had issued an order banning "bad behaviour and the importation of illicit cultures".

Gender Minister Mary Kinden Kimbo said police had exceeded their authority and violated the women's human rights.

Some of the women were beaten after they were arrested outside church and bundled into lorries.

All the women have since been freed and the government of the semi-autonomous region has launched an investigation.

Girls were picked up from points like in the church and were hurled into police lorries
Gender Minister Mary Kinden Kimbo

Traditional values are important in the largely Christian or animist south, which is still recovering after decades of war against the mainly Muslim north.

Khartoum's imposition of Islamic Sharia law across the whole nation was one of the reasons why southerners took up arms.

Traditional values

"Girls were picked up from points like in the church and were hurled into police lorries and taken to the police station, some of them were beaten up, that is why the girls were very distressed," Ms Kimbo told the BBC.

Police in southern Sudan
Police say they were following orders

"I am against the police… taking action single-handedly to round up everybody and start beating them because that is not their job."

The crackdown took place following a local order issued by the commissioner for Juba County last week.

Ms Kimbo said according to the county order, those found guilty of "bad behaviour" would be sentenced to three months in prison.

A second offence also includes a $283 (£161) fine.

The order does not mention clothing specifically, nor specify what is deemed inappropriate behaviour.

However, the police interpreted it as applying to what they deemed unsuitable clothing for women.

Ms Kimbo stressed that South Sudan was committed to protecting the rights of its people and that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

Earlier this year, women in southern Sudanese town of Yei were allegedly forced to strip in public by police officers and pay an unofficial fine for wearing tight trousers.


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