The Sudanese regime continues to place the burden of family honour on women, as a court sentences a 20-year-old to be stoned to death for alleged adultery. The judgment comes as violence toward girls and women soars in the wake of last year's military coup. Civil society and human rights groups in Sudan and beyond have called for the abolition of the obligatory sentence of stoning to death under the 1991 Sudan Criminal Act.
The young woman's trial, which did not meet recognized international standards, took place in Kosti city, White Nile State in July. Human rights advocates say accusations of adultery and blasphemy are often motivated by revenge, rather than based on fact.
The previous Islamist regime of Field Marshall Omar Bashir was overthrown in 2019. Democracy activists hoped Sudan's penal code would be reformed in line with international standards and conventions. However, a coup in October 2021 put the military and Islamist traditionalists back in effective control. Consequently, there has been a climate of impunity for those attacking women and girls challenging traditional roles by leaving their homes to go to school or work, or to be involved in civil society. Until recently, rape victims could be charged with adultery: in 2014, a woman in Sudan was convicted of committing indecent acts after being gang raped, apparently because the act of reporting the rape was considered proof of her sin.
A statement by 19 Sudanese civil society groups argue that the existing Sudanese criminal code is in contravention of international human rights laws to which Sudan is a party. "Sudan has failed to integrate its ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights into national laws," according to the joint statement. Nor has the regime ratified the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women or the African Union protocol on women's rights.
The young woman is identified only as Marim to protect her identity. Rights groups are urging those wishing to prevent the stoning taking place to appeal to the Sudanese authorities. In the past, Khartoum has reversed such verdicts when there is sufficient international concern.
According to Amal Elsheikh of the Sudanese Lawyers & Legal Practitioners Association, "We urge the UK and all human rights supporters to put pressure on the Sudan government to stop the sentence and to cancel it, and to ask Khartoum to stick to the international agreement against torture which they signed."
The UK group Waging Peace: www.WagingPeace.info is asking readers of ICN to send brief emails to the Sudanese Ministry of Justice (firstname.lastname@example.org), copying in The Sudanese Embassy (email@example.com) and the UK Foreign Office (firstname.lastname@example.org and the Africa Minister Vicky.email@example.com) along the following lines:
"I respectfully urge the Sudanese authorities to overturn the sentence of stoning to death against Marim, a twenty-year-old woman in Kosti City, White Nile State, for adultery. It is harmful to Sudan's international reputation to apply this form of punishment which contravenes Sudan's obligations under international laws and conventions to which Sudan is a party. Please revise the 1991 Criminal Act to reflect Sudan's obligations under the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, CEDAW and other international conventions. Thank you."