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CWA # 346, 17 September 2020

GLOBAL PROTEST MOVEMENTS
Not just regime change: Women and protest movements in Sudan

  Vaishali Handique

In Sudan, the matter was two times worse than other countries with similar issues. First, the overall Sudanese population lived under the constant fear of then Dictator President Omar Al-Bashir’s regime. His regime was racist, brutal and was keen on building a nation with politics of fear. Non-Arab people, mostly indigenous Africans, are treated with utmost severity. Laws and punishment kept constantly changing according to the will of the ruling government because of which no one could even stand up against them. Second, the plight of the women in Sudan is acutely downtrodden.

Background

The beauty of a revolution lies not in the fact that it happened in the most unfavourable of circumstances but that it is gender inclusive. Protesting men represents only half of the population and sometimes even less. It is the women and all the other genders, which most often remain discriminated, who adds substance to a protest. 2019 was an eventful year full of protests led by powerful women and other genders across the globe. Whether they are vouching for equal opportunities and rights or for the change of a regime or a corrupt government, all the other genders (apart from male of course) left no stone unturned. They showed the world that they are much more than what the latter perceives them to be. They are on the streets in countless numbers “braving tear gas, rubber pellets water cannons, sticks and harassment” but still intact and consistent towards their respective causes.

But it must be understood that all the revolutions are heterogeneous not only in the issues they are raising but also in the location they belong to. The factor of the geographical location is very much important in order to proceed with a non-judgemental analysis. For example, the Himba tribe of Namibia are nomads. They live a very rustic lifestyle and roam around in groups of less than 50 people out of which majority are women. Though the women’s jobs are the same as the rest of the world, their clothing is scarce. Their upper torsos remain all bare. Now, these women will never understand the “no bra movements” nor why the “girl in the blue bra” in Tahrir Square, Egypt became the symbol of women’s bodies being subjected to moral and social lenses.

On similar lines, a women’s protest in the Middle-east regarding “equal property rights and citizenship laws” cannot be understood in countries like India where these issues are absent. Where in India and the USA and in most other democratic countries, women can take a case to the law and not be judged, in most North African Islamic countries women are not even allowed to step outside their homes let alone go to the court to file a case.

In Sudan, the matter was two times worse than other countries with similar issues. First, the overall Sudanese population lived under the constant fear of then Dictator President Omar Al-Bashir’s regime. His regime was racist, brutal and was keen on building a nation with politics of fear. Non-Arab people, mostly indigenous Africans, are treated with utmost severity. Laws and punishment kept constantly changing according to the will of the ruling government because of which no one could even stand up against them. Second, the plight of the women in Sudan is acutely downtrodden. The first blow comes to them in the form of the extreme male domination they are subjected to in their houses and in public. The second blow came in the form of the brutal regime their country had.

Click the PDF file to read the full essay. It was first published in the NIAS Quarterly on Contemporary World Affairs, Vol 2, Issues 2&3. 

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