South Sudan: The absurdity of New Sharia-type morality laws of Dis-May

Posted: May 23, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Commentary, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Nyawech G. G. Riak, Nairobi, Kenya

Augustino Jadalla Wani, Governor of Jubek State, South Sudan
Augustino Jadalla Wani, Governor of Jubek State, South Sudan

Thursday, May 23, 2019 (PW) — The Governor of Jubek State recently regaled the public with new morality laws. First of all, there is simply no way to fully regulate morality fit for a society that is rapidly getting exposed and adjusting to western secularism as opposed to maintaining the statically traditional it had in the past decades. Culture and society evolve.. These laws may fail to achieve their purpose because they are the same laws that were part of our motivations to fight the jallaba for 22 years when Nimeiri introduced them in September 1983.

The laws revolved around Islam as the source of moral conduct and law. Imposing such a strict form of sharia law contributed to our struggle, which insisted upon secularism. Looking back on those 22 years that we fought a war of liberation it is ironical to prohibit simple things like discos and nightclubs. Therefore this sort of shows an element of confusion as to why we fought for liberation in the first place. It is important to remember what the late Dr John Garang used to teach us. Dr John used to tell our northern allies that we were not fighting a war of liberation from “who” but from “what”.

We never fought against the northerners as a people; we fought against the conditions they imposed. Dr John said we fought against conditions that wanted to make all of us Arabs. In fact he added that “God in his infinite wisdom created Dinka, Nuer, Nuba, and Arabs. We cannot all be Arabs.” He also said, “if you reduce the distance from which a woman in rural Southern Sudan fetches water from 2kms to 2 metres then you have liberated her.” That is what we fought against. We fought against the same conditions our leadership wants to replicate.

Secondly, trying to combat immorality by setting laws will not produce morality. People believe that to some extent laws regulating moral behaviours are the best way to produce morality but what they don’t know is that it does not actually change people. There are many ways to skin a cat than banning of discos, policing morality and alcohol consumption. If people want to indulge in these activities they will find a way. For instance people could have the suppliers deliver alcohol to their homes and drink from there if bars are to be closed during the day.

In addition, individuals could hold parties in the comfort of their homes where there is no age restriction and still have girls as young as 13 years old attending such parties. Talking about the so called “take away” where young teenage girls are traded for sexual activities can still be arranged for, in different places besides lodges. This will only lead to more immorality, which is the very thing we are trying to prevent. There is no doubt that these activities have led to premature deaths, unwanted pregnancies, spread of diseases and less productivity among others and it should seem like a good idea to put laws to regulate morality but the truth is that it will not work.

 In my opinion there it is no logical reason to stop discos from operating when parents are the ones who should control their children. The role of a parent in the child’s life is of maximum importance in bringing up a child. Some of these basic traditional roles are nurturing the child, educating them and disciplining them. Parents should establish law and order in the family by requesting certain levels of discipline to shape character in preparation to face the real world. The state should not play the role of a nanny. Police officers should not be forced to play roles of nannies to parents who neglect their roles.

Further, the new laws violate the constitution, which affords all citizens of this nation rights to personal liberty. Just merely because it offends someone’s personal taste that someone is going to a disco or drinking during the day or two consenting adults copulating outside marriage should not matter. You cannot stop people from entertaining themselves this will only lead to people resenting and this will create more problems than you had to begin with.

Closing down discos will also destroy source of income and creation of job opportunities for young entrepreneurs who own bars and nightclubs. It will frustrate investors making it hard for them to stay in business. A lot of destitute women brew alcohol to support their families and put their children through schools. They sell alcohol during the day and return to their families in the evening. The new law means that most of these women will give up their business or risk imprisonment. Why are criminalising our own women?

Passing a resolution to introduce a law that requires couples seeking to use hotels and lodges to produce a proof of marriage certificate will be futile. It will ultimately affect our tourism industry if we subject foreigners to this law. Plus, all South Sudanese marriages in the rural areas are not registered. There are no marriage certificates. How do we verify such marriages when booking hotels? Some people marry multiple wives, I’m not sure South Sudan provides marriage certificates for such marriages.

Moreover, marriage certificates in South Sudan are not electronic and people could easily forge marriage certificates to access hotel services. Some couples might have as well have lost their marriage certificates during the war and some may be divorced. This law is not going to make sense in this regard.

I strongly believe if we enforce existing laws and improve services instead of making laws to close down nightclubs it might effectively bring change. These laws should also come in tandem with punishing whoever violates them. For example, we could be strict in the environments and spaces where young girls meet up these men by requiring them to produce IDs proving they are 18 years old instead of normalising the act of parading young girls as eye candy in social settings. If the government feels people are drinking too much it could jack up the taxes on alcohol and raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 or even 30 years instead of driving bars out of business.

Efforts should be made to unlock youth potential through youth empowerment, educating them and according them a chance to participate and engage in various youth programmes. This is crucial as it will change mind-sets as well allow them the freedom to make informed decisions. As a result, society will flourish

In conclusion, human desires cannot be fully controlled. Therefore, it will be difficult to manage immorality through legislation. This is not to say that we should promote irresponsibility and allow people to be a public nuisance and do as they please with no consequences.

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. wenyin says:

    I agree with your closing thoughts, that moral policing is detrimental to socities specially if the avarage citizen have access to alternative standards. Internet of things is accessable anytime anywhere. Young minds are particularly on the line When the leaders are pointing a detractors’ fingers, that may give notriety to a vice, and children automatically gravitate towards famous and undesired practices remember!


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