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Women arrested in Sudan demo against public flogging

Police in Sudan have arrested dozens of women protesting against indecency laws.

Today’s arrests come a week after a video appeared on the Internet, showing police whipping a woman in public.

Witnesses say police arrested at least 30 women in Susan’s capital Khartoum earlier this morning, as they gathered outside the justice ministry.

"Humiliating your women is humiliating all your people," the women shouted as they were being arrested.

The women sat down outside the justice ministry holding banners and surrounded by riot police telling them to move. They were all arrested and taken to a nearby police station. They women said they had tried to get permission for the protest but had been refused.

The video, which was removed by YouTube, showed a crying Sudanese woman being lashed by two policemen in front of passers-by in a public place. They made her kneel and some police laughed as she was punished. It is not clear from the video why the woman was being punished.

In the east African country, floggings are allowed under Islamic law and people may be punished by flogging for crimes ranging from drinking alcohol to adultery. The justice ministry has said it is investigating the incident in the video to decide whether the punishment was carried out properly.

Women's rights groups have complained that the sharia-based indecency laws on women's dress and behavior are vague and metered out inconsistently.

"The authorities here take the law into their own hands. No one knows what happens inside these police stations," said one of the arrested women’s lawyers, Mona el-Tijani. "This video was just one example of what happens all the time."

Last year, a Sudanese UN official Lubna Hussein was arrested for wearing trousers in public. After she invited journalists to her public flogging, a court spared her a possible 40 lashes but fined her.

Mariam Alamahdi, a women's rights activist said police harassment of women was commonplace.

"It is a means of harassing [women] and limiting their place in public by treating them as if they should be ashamed of themselves."

Sharia law, the traditional Islamic law, is a far-reaching moral code that sets out how Muslims should run their lives from individual’s behaviour and habits to the criminal justice system and financial institutions. Some human rights advocates argue that, in some countries, the Sharia law does not protect men and women or Muslims and non-Muslims equally and so violates international human rights agreements.

Hayley attribution