CAIRO: Sudan’s transitional government announced on Friday it overturned a moral policing law that criminalised revealing clothing for women and drinking alcohol and moved to dissolve the country’s former ruling party, fulfilling two major demands from the country’s pro-democracy protesters.

Rights groups say the Public Order Act targets women and is a holdover from the three-decade rule of toppled autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

This law is notorious for being used as a tool of exploitation, humiliation & violation of rights, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok tweeted in reference to the overturned law. I pay tribute to the women and youth of my country who have endured the atrocities that resulted from the implementation of this law.

The Public Order Act was first passed in 1992 by al-Bashir’s government and enforced only in the capital, Khartoum, before being applied nationwide four years later. The Sharia-inspired law criminalised a wide range of individual behaviour, including revealing clothing and drinking alcohol. Those convicted of violating the act could face prison sentences, fines, lashing and confiscation of property.

For decades, human rights activists have decried the law and argued that its vague language gave the police and judges leeway to prosecute women, who later played a crucial role in the mass protests that culminated in al-Bashir’s overthrow in April.

Amnesty International welcomed the repeal of the controversial law as a step forward for women’s rights.

The London-based rights group also called on the transitional government to overturn other repressive clauses in criminal laws such as articles dictating women’s dress code and flogging as a form of punishment.

Sudan’s sovereign council and cabinet announced both decisions after a fourteen-hour long meeting that ended shortly after midnight on Thursday. It said the law to dismantle al-Bashir’s National Congress Party would also confiscate all the ex-ruling party’s assets and funds.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019