Gendered Citizenship in Sudan: Competing Perceptions of Women's Civil Rights within the Family Laws among Northern and Southern Elites in Khartoum
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- Bora-import 
In classical political thought, citizenship is a gender-neutral abstract personhood. This concept does not travel well when discussing the citizenship of women in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In Sudan, women’s civil rights are formed and applied by the religious communities—Islamic, Christian, and traditional African beliefs – thereby creating a gendered citizenship that not only has led to the absence of “equality before the law” between men and women in general but also between Sudanese women across religious and tribal affiliation. In contrast to the general literature on women’s rights and Sudan, which focuses on Islamic family law exclusively, I conduct a comparative study of the competing perceptions of women’s civil rights among northern and southern elites who practice Islamic family law and traditional laws in Khartoum. The findings suggest that the traditional laws provide fewer women’s civil rights than Islamic family law. I argue further that changing the gendered structure of the traditional family laws from within is more difficult for southern Sudanese women, because traditional laws are oral not written and no associated state authority can negotiate new rights. The lack of codification thwarts change. This qualitative study is based on primary sources in Arabic and English as well as semi-structured interviews conducted in Khartoum in November 2006 and February-March 2007 with members of northern and southern Sudanese elites.
PublisherChr. Michelsen Institute
SeriesCMI Working Paper
WP 2007: 4