Law Reform Moves Sudan Closer Towards Full Protection for Human Rights of Woman and Minorities

REDRESS and partners welcome the law reforms announced by the Sudanese Ministry of Justice on 11 July, which move Sudan a step closer towards eliminating structural violence against women and minorities, and complying with its human rights obligations. 

The reforms include the abolition of the crime of apostasy, which until now was publishable with the death penalty in Sudan. Further, the reforms involve the criminalisation of female genital mutilation, and the removal of the requirements for women to seek permission from a male relative to travel with children.  

In several policy-dedicated reports, REDRESS and partners had highlighted the discriminatory application of the law in Sudan for decades, which had had a negative impact on woman. Our 2017 report Criminalisation of Women in Sudan: A Need for Fundamental Reform showed how public order laws designed to protect morality had disproportionally targeted women, who could face long spells in jail, flogging for infractions such as wearing trousers, and other forms of violence that in some cases constituted torture and ill-treatment. 

Last year, the transitional Sudanese government repealed the public order laws which had governed women’s presence in public spaces  but had left in place some aspects of the public order regime that have a discriminatory effect on women and minorities, including the crime of apostasy.  

In 2014, REDRESS and partners brought a complaint on behalf of Mariam Yahia Ibraheem and her family before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)In 2014Mariam, a Christian woman born to a Muslim father, was sentenced to death and corporal punishment of 100 lashes for apostasy and adultery since she had married a Christian man. She was imprisoned while pregnant with her infant son, and following her birth, with her newborn daughter, in inhuman conditions in Ombursman’s Woman Prison for over four months, leaving her with long-lasting health issues.  

The complaint sought a number of remedies from Sudan, including an effective investigation of her arrest, detention, conviction and sentencing, and a public apology. It also called for amendments of Sudanese legislation to make it compatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Sudan ratified in 1986. The case is still pending before the ACHPR. 

While the reforms are welcomed, REDRESS and partners note that Sudan still needs to reform other aspects of the public order regime that have a discriminatory effect on women and minorities. This includes repealing the crime of adultery, abolishing corporal punishment from the criminal code, and criminalising torture. Sudan must also ratify key international treaties, such as the UN Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of discrimination Against Women to fully commit to the protection of the rights of women in the country.  

Sudan must also implement reforms to laws and policies that have allowed torture to continue and perpetrators to operate with impunity, and do more to realise the right to justice and reparations of victims. This includes abolishing the system of immunities that ensures that perpetrators of torture remained above the law and put in place  system of remedies for victims. Further reforms should be the result of a consultative process that involves civil society and victims’ groups so that victim’s needs are properly considered.   

Sudan has yet to comply with decisions in several casessome brought by REDRESS, ACJPS and other partners in Sudan on behalf of victims of torture before the ACHPR, the body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights throughout the African continent.  

The reforms announced pave the way for Sudan to start honouring its international human rights obligations. We encourage the new government to continue making domestic law and policy reforms until systematic torture is eradicated from the country, and justice and reparations are fully realised for victims,” said Charlie Loudon, REDRESS’ Legal Advisor. 

For more information or to request an interview, please contact: Eva Sanchis, REDRESS Communications Director at [email protected] or +44 (0) 7857 110076.  

Artwork: Paul Kasambeko “Kaspa”.