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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Anger at Khartoum ban
Sudanese women
The UN recently urged the government to promote equal opportunities
Human rights and workers groups in Sudan have strongly criticised a ban preventing women from working in public places in the capital Khartoum where they are in direct contact with men.

Khartoum Governor Mazjoub al-Khalifa said the decree was intended to uphold the lofty status of women in line with Islamic law.

I am angry. The governor should give us logical justifications

Female petrol attendant
But the General Union of Sudanese Women said it contravened the constitution, which gave all citizens equality at work without distinction.

A human rights lawyer, Ghazi Suleiman, said he would challenge the decree in the constitutional court.

Police have already begun enforcing a decree issued on Sunday barring women from places such as petrol stations, hotels, and restaurants.

The ban came as a surprise to Sudanese women who work to earn a living in a country whose economy has been hit by 17 years of civil war and famine.

The decree which does not apply to women elsewhere in Sudan, comes two weeks after a UN official visiting Sudan urged the government to promote equal opportunities for women.


"This is to honour women, uphold their lofty status and put them in the appropriate place that respects the values and observes the tradition of our nation," Governor Khalifa said.

A Sudanese woman at pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum
The decree affects only women working in Khartoum
He told businessmen that those "women should not be harmed but should be employed in areas other than the ones mentioned in this decree".

A survey on Tuesday revealed that the decree was being observed in public places where women, usually university students, used to work.

"My boss came in and told me I no longer have a job," said Nejla Abdul-Rahman, who works at a petrol station.

"I am angry. The governor should give us logical justifications," Ms Abdul-Rahman, a law school graduate, said.

"I have to work as an attendant here because I cannot find work in my field. What more do they want?"

Women's rights

During a recent visit to Khartoum, the deputy executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), Karin Sham Poo, held talks with Sudanese officials on Sudan's ratification of the UN-sponsored Convention of Eradication of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Sudanese capital, Khartoum
Most public places in Khartoum have adhered to the decree
A number of Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Bangladesh have already signed the convention.

But Sudanese officials believe that some articles in the convention contradict the Islamic and social values and norms of the Sudanese society.

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Americas
Call to action on women's rights
02 Mar 00 | Crossing continents
Cutting out a tradition in Mali
23 Oct 99 | Middle East
Egyptian women's rights: A century on
06 May 00 | Africa
Analysis: Power struggle in Sudan
17 Jan 00 | Africa
Sudan's decades of war
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