Category Archives: Women

Skin bleaching, women, morality and national character in Juba

Male skin bleaching sachets, "extra strength for tough male skin"

Male skin bleaching sachets, “extra strength for tough male skin”

Anyone who has looked closely at non-European skin products knows that skin bleaching is a serious industry.  The international issues of race, racism and beauty standards must be addressed in any discussion of skin lightening and aspirations to white skin (and I would encourage you to read some excellent comment pieces on this and look at the academic work here).  It is hard to buy a soap, face cream or anti-acne product here in Juba that does not contain skin lightening agents.

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Filed under South Sudan, Uncategorized, Women

Christmas beauty in Juba town

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Do you realise how hard it is to get a pedicure on Christmas Eve in Juba?  Even with my regular nail artists, Joseph and Jimmy, in Souk Libya, and several back-up salons, it took me three hours of waiting to get my vital festive nail varnish.

This isn’t frivolous (much).  The beauty industry in Juba has stepped up a notch this last week as people prepare themselves for the festive season.

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The quiet battle: gender and laughter at the South Sudan Film Festival

(TW: discussion of domestic violence to follow after the cut.)

I always get nervous when presenters at Nyakouron theatre ask for audience participation.  You’re never quite sure how many beers the audience has had; I’ve seen audience members climb onto the stage to shove money down women’s tops, set fire to aerosols, and more prosaically attack performers.  So when the representative of Rhino Star got up on stage last night and asked the audience who the ” biggest enemy” was for South Sudan at the moment, I was a little bit nervous.  But of course it was tribalism – followed closely by poverty, with corruption coming a close third.

What wasn’t mentioned by any of the six enthusiastic volunteers, or any of the shouts from the audience, was the topic that actually formed a theme throughout the evening’s films and theatre: gender relations.

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Filed under Current affairs, South Sudan, Women

Nail art in Juba town

nail art Juba

The nail art industry in Juba is booming.  Run entirely by men – I haven’t yet seen a woman doing manicure/pedicure work – working out of salons or wandering the streets with a small box of lotions and polishes, door-to-door, you can get a relatively good mani-pedi for ten bob a pair here.  I am addicted.

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Filed under Domestic bliss, Procrastination, South Sudan, Women

“Undesirable harlots”: women in the South Sudan national archives

Quote from a file on Murle-Dinka relations, South Sudan National Archives

A file on Murle-Dinka relations, South Sudan National Archives

There’s lots of detail in the South Sudan National Archives: I’ve mentioned this before.  What I didn’t mention is how many women there are.  Obviously any archive, when read properly, contains women’s history; despite the erasure and irrelevance of women to the vastly male writers of historical documents (until, hopefully, recently), it’s hard to completely get rid of an entire pesky gender.  What I am enjoying though in the South Sudan National Archives, as they take shape, is looking at how a determined researcher – with a significant amount of time on their hands – could write a very interesting, if a bit scattergun, history of women in South Sudan from these records.

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Filed under Academia, Archives, Women

Interim to Transitional to Interim: the new draft Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011

The freshly drafted transitional constitution has been released!  A PDF is available here.

After a few years of legal work and writing a paper partly on the history of citizenship law in north and south Sudan, I am disproportionately excited by new legislation from the South, and so have decided to break down the key changes (social and political, rather than structural) in this new draft as an exercise in putting this constitution in historical context.  There have been significantly more transitional, provisional and interim constitutions in Sudan – north and south – than ratified constitutions, and I’m keeping a collection.

This draft is a transitional version including its own provisions for interim structures of government.  Various parties in South Sudan say the constitution has been entirely rewritten and is dictatorial; although I’d agree that this is a pretty blatant attempt at consolidating SPLM power, the only major change is the assertion that the presidency shall be for four years following 9 July, without new elections.  This is matched by a general obfuscation over the organisation of a wider constitutional review.  The other political statement – much less subversive – is that Abyei is claimed under the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal Award as ‘the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905.’

On a different note, Arabic has now been completely dropped from the national languages section, and I’m hoping for debates in the future over whether it counts as ‘indigenous:’ in my mind it definitely does.  English is now the only official working language of the government, although I’m not sure how far this will actually work in practice (6.1).

This change to presidential terms and elections is clearly a serious issue and one of a number of concerning moves by the SPLM and GoSS to consolidate a real authoritarian hold on power.  However, in broader political terms, this draft of the constitution is a boring continuation of the fobbing-off of questions of citizenship and women’s rights.  It looks good, initially.  This version does lay out the explicit provision for dual citizenship (45.5), in line with GoSS’s stance on movement between north and south, in contradiction to Garang’s 2003 New Sudan Nationality Act and northern statements.  Although the constitution, as with the interim version in 2005, is impressively liberal on women’s rights to property, inheritance, marital choice, citizenship and government representation, Southern laws drafted since 2003 have frequently contradicted this.  Similarly, although this constitution’s definition of the South Sudan community has no reference to ethnicity as a feature, this is undermined by the New Sudan Nationality Act and the Referendum Act – which many have said should form the basis for a new Nationality Law after independence – emphasising ethnicity as a key marker in citizenship provisions, and restricting access to citizenship for women and most particularly the children of single women.

It basically seems traditional to have as nebulous and liberal a constitution as possible, particularly when most parties are trying to avoid the resolution of questions like Abyei and citizenship rights; however, in light of the two-tier, ethno-centric proofs of citizenship established in the two pieces of Southern legislation on nationality so far, this constitution is potentially a bit of a red herring for optimism over dual citizenship and gender equality.

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Interim to Transitional to Interim: the new draft Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011

The freshly drafted transitional constitution has been released!  A PDF is available here.

http://www.sudantribune.com/Draft-constitution-of-the-Republic,38679

After a few years of legal work and writing a paper partly on the history of citizenship law in north and south Sudan, I am disproportionately excited by new legislation from the South, and so have decided to break down the key changes (social and political, rather than structural) in this new draft as an exercise in putting this constitution in historical context.  There have been significantly more transitional, provisional and interim constitutions in Sudan – north and south – than ratified constitutions, and I’m keeping a collection.

This draft is a transitional version including its own provisions for interim structures of government.

Despite various parties in South Sudan saying the constitution has been entirely rewritten,

http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE73P38320110426?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

the only major change is the assertion that the presidency shall be for four years following 9 July, without new elections.  This is a neatly tactical decision by the SPLM, matched by a general obfuscation over the organisation of a wider constitutional review.  The other political statement – much less subversive – is that Abyei is claimed under the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal Award as ‘the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905.’

On a different note, Arabic has now been completely dropped from the national languages section, and I’m hoping for debates in the future over whether it counts as ‘indigenous:’ in my mind it definitely does.  English is now the only official working language of the government, although I’m not sure how far this will actually work in practice (6.1).

However, in many social and more broadly political respects, this draft of the constitution is a continued fobbing-off of questions of citizenship and women’s rights: this version does lay out the explicit provision for dual citizenship (45.5), in line with GoSS’s stance on movement between north and south, although in contradiction to Garang’s 2003 New Sudan Nationality Act and northern statements.  Although the constitution, as with the interim version in 2005, is impressively liberal on women’s rights to property, inheritance, marital choice, citizenship and government representation, Southern laws drafted since 2003 have frequently contradicted this.  Similarly, although this constitution’s definition of the South Sudan community has no reference to ethnicity as a feature, this is undermined by the New Sudan Nationality Act and the Referendum Act – which many have said should form the basis for a new Nationality Law after independence – emphasising ethnicity as a key marker in citizenship provisions, and restricting access to citizenship for women and most particularly the children of single women.

It basically seems traditional to have as nebulous and liberal a constitution as possible, particularly when most parties are trying to avoid the resolution of questions like Abyei and citizenship rights; however, in light of the two-tier, ethno-centric proofs of citizenship established in the two pieces of Southern legislation on nationality so far, this constitution is potentially a bit of a red herring for optimism over dual citizenship and gender equality.

The PDF version of the constitution can be found here:

http://www.sudantribune.com/Constitutional-review-S-Sudan,38688

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Filed under Politics, Procrastination, Sudan, Women

International women’s day 2011 and Sudan: women in the Sudanese media

Happy International Women’s Day!

Although I can’t find any events online being held in Sudan, I’m going to do a quick roundup of some thoughts I’ve had as a feminist student looking at Sudan.

After my post on reporting of women’s opinions in the press during the referendum, I’ve been keeping a mental tally of how women are represented in Sudanese news.  This isn’t a new thing, but I’ve been discussing the importance of integrating women fully into research lately with my housemate Zoe.

It’s too easy to find vast numbers of stories about women and rape in Sudan – and also some stories about abuses against women on the grounds of marriage issues, alleged adultery and Islamicist dress codes.  Several female human rights activists and student protesters have been sexually abused lately.  The coverage of violence against women during marriage negotiations and over extra-marital relationships in Lakes recently has been welcome; however, there’s very little analysis in this reporting, other than the welcome announcement that GoSS will look at a law against violence against women.

This isn’t surprising, or wrong – sexual abuse in conflicts and as political repression, as well as in everyday repression of women, is a vast and horrific issue which receives insufficient and often poor media coverage.  As Major-General Patrick Cammaert, the former UN peacekeeping commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said in 2008: “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.”

However, women’s voices on anything other than the horror of their rape experiences are mostly lacking in these accounts.  This isn’t to underplay the centrality of the attack to these women’s lives, or to underestimate the problems women face in trying to speak out about their experiences directly: although recently Safiya Eshaq has done just this.  But often it leads to really frustrating reporting: this report on allegations of sexual abuse of female police trainees has no testimony from women, but quotes a male recruit’s frustration at being made to buy his own soap.

The discussion of women predominantly as rape and marital violence victims is overwhelming, compounding this separation of “women’s rights” from reports on political activism; women are only pictured in the reports on youth activism in Sudan, and the term “youth” perpetually refers exclusively to young men: a “political activist” in the media at the moment is assumed male until proven female, and if female, usually only appears in reports of her rape or abuse.

In conclusion, then, women are still being reported in terms of their physical victimhood.  There aren’t many reports that give time to women as active thinkers and doers as well as abused bodies; the reports that do still focus on women’s testimonies of their rape.  I think the situation is better in reporting on the Congo, but Sudanese media on women in the mainstream press has a long way to go.

In other news, one of the youth groups in Khartoum have called for renewed protests on 21 March – I will try to look out for updates on planning, but for now here are some facebook pages to watch for more information.

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Filed under Politics, Sudan, Women