From custody to stoning… How does Sudanese law continue to oppress women?

After a legal dispute that lasted almost half a year, the Sudanese court sentenced Mrs. Maryam Tirab (20 years old) to 6 months in prison, after turning her case from sex outside the official institution of marriage into “obscene acts”, which, according to the criminal law, meaning intercourse with another person, which was not an actual practice, after her legal team appealed her death sentence by stoning.

The verdict of stoning was handed down on June 26, and the sentence was commuted after fierce pressure on human rights.

Maryam will not be the last victim of the laws made by the lawmakers of the ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s regime, according to their religious perceptions, as there were thousands of victims before her, including Hawa Abdullah.

Brief reality of women’s injustice

Hawaa, 28, who works as a tea and coffee vendor on a public road in the town of Hasahisa in central Sudan, is afraid of her husband, who used to beat her if she refused to give him part of her daily income after the court returned her years ago into his obedience.

Eve tells Raseef22: “In our culture, a woman does not complain about her husband, and if she files a case against him, the judiciary will not give me justice like the first time. I’d rather give him what he wants to stay in line with my three children.”

This tacit consent is the result of the unfairness of the Personal Status Act, this is how he begins his interview with Raseef22, lawyer Hajar Bakhit. And he adds: “The law sets the conditions for obedience to the husband, represented by the fact that he pays her dowry immediately, and that he is reliable for her and prepares a home for her, and if she refuses to obey him after that, he considers her disobedient, and waives alimony for her in the event of their separation.

However, the prevailing interpretation is that obedience is mandatory, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, where litigation is usually conducted according to the local administration system, which tends to settle.

Attorney Noun Kashkoush discusses the common interpretations among law enforcement agencies and judges regarding Article 162 of the Civil Procedure Code, which allows a woman to file for divorce from her husband for personal injury. She told Raseef22: “The assessment of the compensation claim depends on the judge, and some judges believe that it is a man’s right to beat his wife, while other judges believe that verbal abuse is not a crime.”

A father has the right to marry off his ten-year-old daughter, which is why marriage between young girls is widespread in Sudan.

Some injustice to women

According to the concept of guardianship, detailed in the third section of the Law on Personal Relations, a woman cannot marry herself without the father’s consent, and in case of his refusal, she has the right to conclude the marriage through the court.

The father also has the right to marry a respectable woman, who set the age limit for discrimination at 10 years, which means that underage girls are allowed to marry. Perhaps this is why marriage between young women is widespread in Sudan.

The family survey conducted by the Government in 2010 shows that 37.5% of women between the ages of 20 and 49 got married before the age of 18, that is, in childhood, while the results of the research on multiple indicators from 2014 show that 12% of women get married before at the age of 15, and 38% before the age of 18.

The Ministry of Social Development comments on this issue, saying: “These rates are higher for rural areas, less educated families and poor families.” Under that law, a man has the right to unilaterally announce that he is divorcing his wife, while a woman has no right to divorce except based on a court ruling based on damages, which Noun Kashkoush says is subject to the judge’s discretion. As for the next inheritance, it is subject to the Islamic religion, which gives women a smaller share than men.

Citizenship rights

Legal injustice against women, under the Personal Status Act, which the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa says prevents equal civil rights, because women cannot document the birth certificates, citizenship and death certificates of their children, from the criminal code.

The latter punishes local alcohol producers, who are widespread in almost all regions of Sudan, with a prison sentence of up to one year for preventing the consumption, production and trade of alcohol.

What the legislator considers to be improper actions, such as improper actions and sexual relations with a man or woman with consent, is punishable by a prison sentence of one year. It also imposes the punishment of flogging on women who wear clothes that cause public sentiments to be disturbed, and this humiliating punishment is for actions that fall within the scope of personal freedom.

Lawyer Noun Kashkoush comments on these laws, saying: “We women have fought many battles for decades, and we still have other battles ahead, as many laws contain problems, some of which are based on Sharia, and other problems, which are publications Ministry of the Interior”. He points out that the injustice done to women has reached such an extent that the criminal prosecution authorities do not accept the guarantees of women for suspects or accused persons, despite the absence of a legal text that would prevent this.

With the coming of the army to power, the reforms that the transitional government started by changing the provisions of some laws were blocked.

Many demands require a new struggle

The coming to power of the army, which the United Nations classifies as a military coup, on October 21, 2021 interrupted the reforms initiated by the transitional government by changing some laws, allowing women to take children outside of Sudan without the permission and approval of their husbands, and criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM ). However, these amendments, which were passed in July 2020, did not satisfy the aspirations of women, so they continued their struggle, which reached its peak in April 2021, when they organized large protests, after which they issued a feminist statement calling for the abolition of male guardianship and giving women the right to separation and equality in inheritance and accepting their full testimony in criminal cases and giving them the right to name their children if the father is unknown, along with the repeal of the criminal law and the personal status law and the adoption of new legislation that criminalizes child marriages, forced marriages, domestic violence and marital rape, and the signing of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Three weeks after this procession, the Council of Ministers preliminarily ratified the agreement with a reservation on Articles 2 and 16 and the first paragraph of Article 29, and despite reservations on vital articles that enable men to be equal with women, the Legislative Council did not pass them at that time. perhaps to avoid criticism by refusing to sign it, not forgetting that the legislation in that paragraph was implemented at a joint meeting between the Council of Sovereignty and the Council of Ministers, in accordance with the provisions of the constitutional document. The struggle of Sudanese women continues.

This kind of legal environment, the decriminalization of domestic violence and the spread of a culture of tolerance, which is the mediation of relatives so that disputes, regardless of the extent of their violence, are resolved in an amicable way, may be the reason why 2.7 million women came out of 22.5 million Sudanese who need protection services from gender-based violence.

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