Sudan teen's death penalty puts spotlight on women's rights

2018-05-18 13:30
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

When a Sudanese teenager was sentenced to death last week for killing her husband, who had allegedly raped her, activists knew that a new fight had begun for women's rights in Sudan.

Noura Hussein, 19, received the sentence for the "intentional murder" of the man her father had forced her to marry.

"Noura is facing death. Her case has brought us close to an execution," said Sudanese women's rights activist Wini Omer, who witnessed the sentencing on May 10.

"The situation is dangerous and necessitates taking women's rights more seriously so that we can protect them," she said.

Hussein's case has triggered outrage, with activists launching a campaign called "Justice For Noura" and the United Nations' women's agency appealing for clemency.

The teenager's plight has also focused attention on issues facing women in Sudan such as marital rape, child marriage, forced marriage and the arbitrary application of Islamic law, along with tribal traditions that often target women.

Rights group Amnesty International says Hussein was forcibly married at the age of 16, and that when she refused to consummate the marriage, her husband invited two of his brothers and a male cousin to help him rape her.

When he tried to rape her a second time, she stabbed him to death, said Amnesty.

Sudanese law allows children above 10 to be married.

"In our arguments we raised the issue that it was a forced marriage and that she was raped," Hussein's lawyer, Adil Mohamed al-Emam, told AFP.

"The court discussed it but did not recognise that she was raped."

Emam says he will appeal against the sentence.

 'Regime ideology' 

Days after Hussein was sentenced, another Sudanese woman was lashed 75 times at a police station in the Sudanese capital after a court found her guilty of marrying without her father's approval.

Omer has also faced the wrath of Sudan's controversial public order law, which she says primarily targets women.

In one case a prosecutor accused her of "indecent dressing," although she had worn a skirt, top and headscarf whilst waiting for a bus on a Khartoum street. A court found her not guilty.

In a second case, Omer said she was accused of prostitution after police stormed an apartment where she was with friends. She was detained for five days.

"Women in Sudan have been systematically oppressed since 1989," Omer told AFP, referring to the year when President Omar al-Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup.

"It is the regime's ideology that discriminates between men and women," she said, dressed in a black top and leggings.

Activists want Sudanese laws to be amended, particularly the security act, which gives security agents sweeping powers to make arbitrary detentions.

"It's not about the judge, the problem is with our laws themselves," said leading human rights activist Mudawi Ibrahim Adam.

"Imagine you can be detained up to nine months without charges under the security act," he said.

He was detained for several months amid a crackdown on opposition activists in 2016.

 'Bad Laws' 

Even before Hussein's sentence, rights activists had been urging Washington, which in October lifted decades-old sanctions against Khartoum, to push the Sudanese authorities to allow women more freedoms.

"We are trying to cooperate with the government to assure them that allowing more freedoms enhances the society," Steven Koutsis, top US envoy to Khartoum, told AFP at an event in March to honour courageous Sudanese women.

He said there was a will within the government to improve the human rights situation in Sudan.

"But that is tempered by fears (about) how to react to threats of instability," he said, adding that for Washington, human rights included women's rights.

Sudanese officials claim that many issues facing women are to do with the African country's centuries-old traditions, often tribal in nature.

"Had Noura gone to a court right at the beginning when she was being forced to marry, she would have been protected," insisted Abdulnasser Solom, an official from the government's Human Rights Commission.

But activists say Hussein's case is just the tip of a vast iceberg.

"There are tens and thousands of cases like Noura in our community that no one knows about," said leading women's activist Amal Habbani, who was detained for weeks for participating in opposition protests in January.

Sudanese laws do not consider women as human beings who can take their own decisions, she said.

"Bad laws create a bad environment in which women get oppressed," Habbani said.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  sudan  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

SQL Reporter

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town IT
R10 000.00 - R12 000.00 Per Month

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.