By Deng Ghai Deng
Lawmakers representing Jonglei State in the National Legislative Assembly are expressing concern about what they call ongoing harassment of women and girls in the state capital, Bor.
Mayen Deng Alier, a member of parliament representing Jonglei State’s Twic East County in the National Assembly said that the crackdown is illegal because there is no South Sudan dress code.
“All our ten states plus 3 administrative areas are guided by the same law. We cannot make any law that is favoring the Jonglei state or which is different from other states. If there is anything like that then it should start from Juba. The function of the police is to maintain law and order and the function of the army is to protect us from external aggression, but extending that function into issues of basic human rights is wrong. Alier said
He added that Jonglei State authorities should condemn the abuse of women and girls and stop the ongoing abuses. The general has broken the law because he has no mandate to do what he is doing. If he continues doing this then some of us will be forced to summon him to Juba.
“I wrote to the IGP and I am going to communicate to him, I will go to his office and tell him this is wrong, this guy should be recalled,” Alier added
Bor resident Yar Ayuen Mabior says security forces in Bor town intimidated and harassed her a few days ago, saying police forced her to undress and burned her clothes. She says security operatives called her dress ‘indecent.’ Ayuen says she was shocked by what security forces did to her because South Sudan has no laws that dictate the choice of dress.
“I was harassed and humiliated by the security forces. They also insulted and assaulted me. I was detained and the commander said that I will be beaten right down, chained, and put into that container. I really became angry because I was falsely accused. I didn’t dress in an indecent manner, but I was forced to undress and my clothes burned.” Ayuen said in a video posted on Facebook.
She added that security operatives have verbally reprimanded women and, on some occasions, whipped them on the spot or arrested and detained them for infractions such as wearing short skirts or tight dresses, not covering their thighs, or chests, and accused them of public nudity. She says security operatives have also targeted young men with dreadlocks.
Jonglei state information minister John Samuel says he is not aware of the crackdown against women accused of indecent dressing in Bor town.
Brigadier General Ajak Ayuen Mach, head of the Joint Operations Force leading the crackdown in Bor, acknowledges that he is implementing what he calls a request by community leaders to restore traditional culture and appropriate dress in Bor town, but denies his forces harass women.
“The community asked me to rescue the society so if there are people complaining let them direct their complaints to the community. Concerning the case of Yar Ayuen Mabior, she was arrested and brought to me by the security forces. I told her that her dress is too short, you must change it but she resisted and I also insisted not to let her go until she called back home for another chance. Mach said
General Mach denies his forces harassed Ayuen. He says women are expected to dress in a way that covers their body and to wear clothes that are not transparent or tight-fitting, which he says can lead to sexual immorality.
The crackdown has sparked debate on social media. Some citizens and activists say everyone has the right to freedom of expression and freedom to manifest their religion or beliefs under international human rights law.