A Step Forward for the Sudanese and Women's Involvement
By: Yasmina Hage/Arab America Contributing Writer
For a long time, women’s rights have been neglected in Sudan. However, things are moving forward, and we are looking forward to a better future for Sudanese women. Sudan has made several reforms, and among them is the partial permission of alcohol consumption and the banning of female genital mutilation (FGM). In fact, women actually protested for changes in Sudan.
On Twitter, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok welcomed “an important step toward judicial reform, and the realization of the revolution’s slogan – freedom, peace, and justice.” The authorities will “review the laws and make amendments to address the flaws in the judicial system,” he added.
Alcohol Consumption for the Sudanese
Alcohol consumption in Sudan was banned in 1983 by former President Gaafar Nimeiri. Today, this consumption is allowed to anyone who is not a Muslim (about 3% of the Sudanese population). On July 12, Justice Minister Nasreddine Abdelbari announced the abolition of Article 126 of the penal code on apostasy, which made alcohol consumption punishable by death. He said, “An amendment allows non-Muslims to consume alcohol outside the public space, as long as they do not cause any disturbance.” However, alcohol consumption is prohibited for Sudanese Muslims.
FGM is Now a Crime
These amendments also included a ban on excision, which is a widespread ancestral practice in the country. The Sovereign Council, made up of civilians including women and military personnel, had approved a series of laws including criminalizing a practice that “violates women’s dignity.”
Approved on April 22, the government had voted an amendment to the penal code that makes the perpetrators of excision punishable by up to three years in prison with the payment of a fine. “Female genital mutilation is a crime,” and “anyone who uses it will be sentenced to up to three years in prison,” according to the amended law. The clinic where the excision took place could also close.
In Sudan, excision, which can be fatal in some cases, is a “rite of passage” and nearly nine out of 10 women have undergone it, according to the United Nations. Also, the practice occurs in other countries, particularly in rural areas.
Girls are excised because of a widespread cultural belief that it is essential for girls’ reputations and marriage prospects. In societies where it is practiced, Female Genital Mutilation, which is seen as a social norm, reflects gender inequality society’s control over women. The practice is linked to a range of cultural, religious and social beliefs. The reasons for groups that continue to practice FGC vary by region, ethnicity or community.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
- Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the external clitoris and/or the hood of the clitoris.
- Excision: partial or total removal of the external clitoris and the labia minora with/without removal of the labia majora.
- Infibulation or “pharaonic excision”: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with overlapping removal and attachment of the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris.
- Type Four: all other harmful interventions on the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as perforation or tearing of the internal and external genitalia.
Consequences of Female Genital Mutilation
According to the United Nations, 87% of Sudanese women between the ages of 14 and 49 have undergone some form of FGM. FGM can lead to urinary tract infections, uterine infections, kidney infections, cysts, gynecological problems, and pain during sex. Unfortunately, this list does not end there. Indeed, FGM can cause a loss of sexual pleasure and infertility in addition to having a psychological impact.
Sudanese Women have Played an Important Role in Making a Difference in Sudan
Women were at the forefront of the movement that overthrew Mr. Bashir in April 2019. Indeed, women are leading anti-government protests in Sudan. These demonstrations are among the largest in Sudan, and 2/3 of the demonstrators are women. During this movement, activists have accused the former government of discriminating against women in different ways.
Another positive change for these Sudanese women is that in November 2019, a restrictive public order law that controlled how women behaved and dressed in public was repealed.
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