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UniversityofWashington

FromSuccesstoStagnancy:GenderRepresentationinSudaneseGovernmentandits
Future

CarolineKasman
JSIS201
ProfessorDavidBachman
21February2016

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Introduction
InpostconflictAfrica,manystateshaveutilizedelectoralgenderquotasto
promotepoliticalrepresentationforwomenwhohavebeenpreviouslymarginalized.
AfterSudanresolveditscivilwarinthemid2000s,thestateexperiencedaninitial
enthusiasmtowardsequityinthepoliticoeconomicsphere,enactinga25percentquota
ofseatsreservedforwomenintherepresentativegovernment.Thismobilizationof
womenintoParliamenthasalsocorrespondedwithgenderequitylegislationsuchasthe
signingoftheComprehensivePeaceAgreement,whichincludedArticle32that
demandedaffirmativeactionforwomeninpolitics.However,sincethiscriticaljuncture,
womeningovernmentpositionshavefailedtopassfurtherlawssignificanttofemale
rights.WhywaspostcivilwarSudanabletoproducelegislaturepromotingequalityonly
forwomensempowermenttohitastalemateonceagaininrecentyears?Thetransition
fromconflicttopeaceinSudaninitiallyprovidedthespaceforamobilizationofwomen
acrosspartyandideologicalboundaries,producingprogressivelegislationthatgleanedits
legitimacyfromIslamicdoctrine.However,recentconflictinSudanhasdividedregional
womensgroups,makingthemineffectiveinthefaceofaconservativemajorityin
government.
BackgroundonSudanesePoliticsandFemaleRepresentation
Sudanisadejuredemocraticrepublicbutinrealityisasemiauthoritarian
regimewithahistoryofrestrainingfemalepowerAfterbreakingfromBritishEgyptian

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rulein1956,theregionexperiencedvaryingauthoritariananddemocraticregimesand
twocivilwarsbetweennorthernandsouthernSudan.PresidentOmaralBashirleda
militarycoupofthedemocraticadministrationin1989andhasheldofficesince.The
UnitedNationscondemnshimnotonlyforcorruptionbutalsohumanrightsabuses
againstciviliansintheDarfurregionthatcontinuestothisday(UNNewsCenter).While
themajorityofauthorityisinthehandsofalBashirandthereigningNationalCongress
Party(NCP),thereislimitedpowerinthemultipartisanbodiescontainedintheNational
Legislature,theNationalAssemblyandtheCouncilofStates.Despitethismostly
authoritariangovernmentstructure,widespreadviolentconflictdidnotformallyendin
Sudanuntilthe2005signingoftheComprehensivePaceAgreement.Hence,althoughthe
legislativeframeworkexisted,Sudanesepoliticsdidnotofferapeacefulspacefornew
lawstoempowerwomenuntilthemid2000s.
FemaleparticipationinSudanspublicspherehasalsohingedonobservationof
hijabpracticesthatarecodifiedbyIslamistdecrees.Manylawsregardingmarriage,
family,femalepublicconduct,andinheritancearebasedonSharialaw.Womenalso
experiencebothinformalandpoliceharassmentforproperdressandbehaviorand
receivethreatsinthefaceofactivism(Eichhorn27).Sudanesefemaleshaveplayeda
significantroleinstabilizingeconomicandsociallifebutweremostlykeptfrompolitical
lifeuntilrecently.Upperclasswomenhavehadaccesstoeducation,socialbenefits,and
jobssincethestatesindependencefromcolonialpowerbutmostfemaleshavebeen
secludedtodomesticlife(7).Evenduringthenineties,womencouldonlywork,
includingingovernment,iftheyhadprovidedproofofneedforincomeandnochildren.

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Furthermore,theseopportunitieshadtobedeemedappropriatebygovernmentaland
religiousstandards(Mustafa25).Thus,IslamistpracticeshavealsolimitedSudanese
womensparticipationinlegislatureinthepastinadditiontogovernmentalstagnancy
fromthestatesinternalconflicts.
AnalysisofGenderEqualityinSudansLegislature
Thetransitionfromconflicttopeacein2005openedupthepoliticalspacefor
womensgroupstodevelopprogressivelegislationinSudan.SociologistMariTripp
assertsthatwhilenottrueforallstates,thetransitionfrommilitarytocivilianrulein
manycountrieshasledtoincreasedrepresentation,association,andotherfreedomsfor
women(WomeninMovement234).Sudanfallsintothiscategoryofpostconflictstates
increasingfemaleequality.Fromtheinitiationofmilitaryreignin1989tothefirst
parliamentaryelectionsin1996,femalerepresentationinSudanslegislaturefluctuated
between4%and9%.However,withthechangeinrulecamenewpoliticalideology.This
politicaltransitionofferedacriticaljuncturetobringnewopportunities;theunityand
vigorassociatedwiththegovernmentregainingcontrolovercivilianspromotingthe
alterationofitsconstitutionandothersignificantdocuments(ReforminPostconflict
Sudan92).Althoughwomenweregenerallyexcludedfromnegotiations,reformingthe
statelawsopenedupapoliticalspace,albeitlimited,toopenlycriticizethestatusquo
includingtheIslamistgovernment'sgenderpoliciesandlaws(126).The1998Interim
NationalConstitutiondeclaredinArticle15thattheStateshallemancipatewomenfrom
injustice,promotegenderequalityandencouragetheroleofwomeninfamilyandpublic
lifeanddefinedthisfemaleempowermentinArticle21aspromotingtheequalrights

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ofmenandwomentotheenjoymentofallcivilandpoliticalrights(citedinFadlalla99,
104).Aspartofthesestipulationsbytheconstitution,femalerepresentationincreasedin
thegovernmentto13%by2005(TheWomen'sQuotainConflictRiddenSudan125).
Hence,thepublicspaceprovidedbySudanspostconflictcommitmenttonewideals
formedlegislationthatimprovedpoliticalrepresentationofwomen.
Whilemanyscholarsattestthatdemocracyistheonlymethodtopromotefemale
rightsandpoliticalrepresentation,SudansamendmentstoitsconstitutionanditsCPA
disprovesthistheoryofpuredemocracyastheonlypathtoequality.Itisthegeneral
transitionfromwartopeaceratherthanaprogressiontoliberalgovernmentthatprovides
spaceforwomensmovements.Evenasapseudodemocracy,Sudansharesthepost
conflictdevelopmentofprowomenlawswithmanyotherAfricanstateswithvarying
degreesofdemocraticrepresentation,includingRwanda,SouthAfrica,Uganda,and
Tanzania(ReforminPostconflictSudan92).Thus,liberalgovernmentisnottheonly
pathtoincreasedwomensequalityinpolitics.
OnceSudansgovernmentprovidedpoliticalspaceforfemales,womens
movementsflourishedbyreachingacrosspartyandregionallinestoformequality
relatedlawsbasedonIslamicinterpretation.Duringthenewfoundunityintheperiodof
theCPA,femalerightswerenotregardedasareligiouslysensitive(ReforminPost
conflictSudan92).AMuslimwomanexplainedtheconnectionbetweenIslamand
womensrepresentativeingovernmentasalinkbetweenthetimeofProphet
Muhammadandtherolegiventowomenthenandintodayssociety.Weworkhardto
makethedecisionmakersrealiseitisimportantforwomentoparticipateinpolitics.Itis

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partofthereligion(citedinComplexRealitiesandAstuteActors2).Withthisreligious
inspirationandthesuccessoftheCPAsarticles,femaleactivistspushedthe2008
ElectionLaw,whichratifiedareservedquotaof25percentthroughclosedwomenslists
(2008HumanRightsReport:Sudan).ArepresentativefromtheDemocraticUnionParty
citedthatmobilizationwassuccessfulbecauseofunificationacrossparties(citedin
ReforminPostconflictSudan95).Hence,theaccordexperiencedwithnewfound
politicalspacepromotedmultipartisancooperationtopasslawsthatimprovedfemale
representationingovernment.
InthepostCPAera,socioeconomicandregionaldifferenceshavedividedwomen
withinpoliticsandstalledtheproductionofnewfemaleorientatedlegislature.Tnnessen
explainsthatastimehaspassedaftertheinitialunityassociatedwiththeCPAand
ElectionLaw,femalerepresentativesandactivistsfromruralregionshavereturnedto
distrustingtheirurbancounterparts.Thestateshistoryofunequaldistributionof
resourceshasledtopolitical,economicandculturalmarginalizationofwomeninless
industrializederas(TheWomen'sQuotainConflictRiddenSudan:124).Additionally,
thecontinuedgenocideandconflictinDarfurandtheeasthasmadecommunication,
travel,andactivismevenmoredifficult,furtheringregionalrifts(122).Atinternational
conferencesin2005and2006,Sudanesewomenwereunabletoreachaconsensusona
specificpoliticalplatform.Additionally,whenhanddeliveringprioritiestoother
countrysleaders,thefemalerepresentativesoftheNCPwereabsent,showcasingalack
ofconsensus(124).Currently,thereisstillapolarizationofwomenactivists.Inthe
wordsofanIslamistoutsideoftheNationalAssemblywhohavejoinedtheopposition;

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thewomeninparliamentaremarginalized.Theycannottalkaboutthesensitiveissues;
FGM,earlymarriageandpolygamy(citedin124).Hence,withouttheinitial
cooperationofthepostcivilwarera,womensregionaldifferenceshavebeenaggravated
byregionalconflictsandsocioeconomicdisparities,obstructingfurthersignificant
legislature.
Atthesametimeastheresurgenceofdisparitiesamongfemaleactivists,aradical
IslamistforcehasemergedinSudanesegovernmentthathasalsohinderedprogressfor
women.TnnessenstatesthatSudanhasrecentlyexperiencedanupsurgeof
fundamentalistSalafism,aconservativeIslamictrendendemictoneighboringcountries
strugglingwiththeArabSpringsuchasEgypt.TheSalafistgroup,AnsaralSunna,has
partlybeencooptedbythegovernment,pushingforincreasedpublicmoralityand
humilityfromwomen(122).AnsaralSunnarefutesallnonIslamiclawsandis
fightingtoincreasegendersegregation.Thesenewprioritiesofthelegislaturedistracts
fromwomensrightsandalsomakesthelogisticsoffemaleparticipationinpoliticsmore
difficult(124).ThisconservativeIslamistmovementisformingfurtherbarriersto
Sudanesewomensrights,attemptingtopromotelessfemaleequalityratherthanmore.
WhilenewlegislaturefromwomensgroupsinSudanhasrecentlystalled,
internationalorganizationsmaystrengthentheirmovementonceagain.However,this
interventionhasonlybeensuccessfulthroughofferingresourcesratherthantryingto
compelthecountrytoadoptglobalnormsofhumanrights.In2005,Norwayheldan
internationalconferencefordonatingtoSudananddiscussingofadoptingUNResolution

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1325,whichdirectspostconflictstatestoensureincreasedrepresentationofwomenat
alldecisionmakinglevelsinnational,regionalandinternationalinstitutions(Reformin
PostconflictSudan91).Sudandidnotadoptthisresolution,interpretingitnarrowlyas
regardingsexualviolencewhichPresidentalBashirdeniesoccursintheircountry,
especiallyintheDarfurregion(ComplexRealitiesandAstuteActors1).However,
participationinthisconferencehasbroughtawarenesstogenderingpeacebuilding,and
increaseddonationstoSudanesewomenactivists,politicians,andNGOs(2).Academic
MariTrippstatesthisincreaseinresourcescanfurnishwomensabilitytoutilizethe
mediaandreachouttootherpoliticianstofurthertheiragenda(WomenandPowerin
PostconflictAfrica79).Thus,althoughnotdirectlyadoptingsupranationalnorms,
exposuretointernationalsupportencouragesSudanesewomensmovements,whichmay
contributetosuccessinfurthergovernmentparticipationinthefuture.
PolicySuggestionsandConclusion
ThetransitionfromconflicttopeaceinSudaninitiallyprovidedthespaceforan
assertivewomensmovementtogrow,mobilizingwomenacrosspartyandideological
boundaries.Thesefemaleactivistsproducedlegislationthatincreasedrepresentationin
accordancewithIslam.Whilethisfirstupsurgeinpoliticalspacepromisedfurtherjumps
towardsequalityforwomen,regionalconflictsandaninequalityofresourceshave
dividedwomensgroups.Inthefaceofalsoincreasinglyconservativepolitics,Sudanese
womenhavebeenunabletoformthecoalitionnecessarytoproducemoreequality
relatedlaws.InorderforwomensrightstoincreaseinSudan,thegovernmentmustwork
todistributeeducationalopportunitiesandotherresourcesfairlythroughoutthestate.Itis

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alsocrucialtoresolvetheconflictinDarfurbothtounifywomensgroupsandredirect
politicalattentiontowardsfemaleliberties.Finally,withanupsurgeinradicalism
internationally,Sudanshouldpartnerwithothernationstopromotewomens
representationingovernmenttoovercomeconservativegroups.Withthesebothlocalized
andinternationalstrategies,Sudancanonceagainimprovewomensrights.

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