Sudan: Change the law – allow victims of sexual violence to access justice

UN Photo/Albert González Farran

11 SEPTEMBER 2014 UPDATE: Following our calls on government officials and our June submission to the Human Rights Committee, the State has since provided the young woman with medical attention (she gave birth in June). Additionally, she no longer faces deportation as the immigration charges were suspended. Equality Now continues to pursue all angles to ensure justice for the young survivor and an amendment of Sudan’s rape and public order laws.

Please continue to lend your voice to the call for all criminal charges against her to be dropped. Thank you for your support! 

In August 2013, while house hunting in Sudan, a 19-year-old pregnant and divorced Ethiopian woman was lured to an empty property and brutally gang-raped by a group of seven men. Immediately following the attack, a police officer found the victim, but didn’t file a formal complaint of rape because it was a public holiday and the police station was closed. After a disturbing film of the attack by the rapists surfaced online in January 2014, the authorities ultimately arrested everyone involved, including the victim. Sudan’s Attorney General has – without legal basis – consistently blocked her from filing a rape complaint on the basis that she was under investigation for the criminal offense of offending public morality. And, at one point, she even faced death by stoning for adultery, as the prosecutor debated her marital status before affirming that she was divorced. As of 20 February, three of the perpetrators have been convicted of adultery, two of indecent acts, and one of distributing indecent material; their sentences consisted of lashes and fines. The seventh was freed due to insufficient evidence.

This case highlights the overwhelming challenges women face in obtaining justice in Sudan for rape and sexual violence. Since being arrested, and despite being close to giving birth, the young woman has been held in police cells and, until recently, been consistently denied placement in a medical facility. She was found guilty of committing indecent acts under section 151 of the Criminal Act, sentenced to one month in prison and has been fined 5000 Sudanese Pounds (approx. $900 USD). Her sentence has been suspended due to her pregnancy, and she has been placed under probation for six months.

Tragically, however, her troubles don’t end there. She is now being threatened with immigration offenses, which carries a two-year prison term and subsequent deportation. The prosecutor has also filed charges under section 146 referring to adultery, which criminalizes pregnant unmarried women. An appeal has been filed on the victim’s behalf against the new criminal charges, and the court hearing on her immigration charges has been postponed until April 2, 2014.

Urgent legal reform is needed, particularly to article 149 of the criminal code referring to rape. Please Take Action today and join us in calling on Sudanese officials to demand that:

  • The prosecution drop all criminal charges against the young woman, and cease any legal action to deport her to Ethiopia.
  • The young woman is promptly provided with adequate medical and psychological support as a victim and survivor of sexual violence.
  • Immediate steps are taken to amend the Sudan Criminal Act of 1991 and the Sudan Evidence Act of 1994 to prevent the criminalization of sexual violence victims, and to ensure that women and girls who have been raped receive equal protection under the law in accordance with Sudan’s international obligations.

President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir

H.E. Mohammed Bushara Dousa

Minister of Justice

H.E. Fatih Ezzidin Ahmed

Speaker of the National Assembly

H.E. Mashair Aldawalab

Minister of Welfare & Social Security

H.E. Ali Ahmed Karti

Minister of Foreign Affairs

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