Sudan: 12 female Christians arrested and forced to strip naked after church

Strict law is applied in Khartoum - women are only permitted to show their face, hands and feet.Reuters

Twelve women were arrested by police and forced to strip after leaving a Baptist church in Sudan. Ten of the women were then charged with wearing immoral or indecent clothing.

Islamic law is strictly imposed in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and allows only hands, feet and face to be uncovered.

The women, wearing skirts and trousers, were aged between 18 and 23 although it is believed that three of them were minors aged under 18.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that the 12 women were arrested on public indecency charges on 25 June by Sudan's Public Order Police after leaving a celebration service at the El Izba Baptist Church in Khartoum.

They were forced to remove their clothes at the police station so the garments could be submitted as evidence to the prosecutor.

The ten women charged with indecent or immoral dress under Article 152 of the Sudanese Criminal Code have been released on bail and are awaiting hearings. The other two were released without charge.

According to CSW, which works internationally for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, the Public Order Police in Sudan have broad scope to define what constitutes indecent or immoral dress.

Lawyers representing some of the women said: "Two of the women were released. Who decided that their dress was no longer immoral if when they were arrested their dress was considered indecent? The law needs to be clarified."

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said: "We are deeply concerned by the unwarranted arrest of these 12 young women and are alarmed by reports that three of them may be minors who have been arrested arbitrarily and charged as adults in violation of their rights under Articles 37 and 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Sudan is a party.

"Furthermore, forcing these young women to undress amounts to degrading treatment, as defined by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is also a party. We urge the Sudanese authorities to discontinue the cases against these young women and to clarify the law, ensuring consistency and equality before the law for all Sudanese citizens."