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Sudan Bans Female Genital Mutilation, the Death Penalty for Apostates, and More

Tuesday 14 July 2020, by siawi3


Sudan Bans Female Genital Mutilation, the Death Penalty for Apostates, and More

By Hemant Mehta

July 13, 2020

When Humanists International released its annual “Freedom of Thought Report” in November, describing serious cases of discrimination and persecution against atheists around the world, the nation of Sudan was ranked 187 out of 196. (Saudi Arabia ranked last.) It’s not a place where religious freedom is taken seriously.

One of the reasons Sudan was ranked so low is because apostasy is considered a crime punishable by death. Leaving Islam because you’re no longer religious, then, is a capital crime.

But in March, the nation said it would consider removing the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy. (It shouldn’t be punished with a slap on the wrist either, but okay, still important.)

The change occurred at the urging of the country’s new Minister of Justice, Nasredeen Abdulbari (photo), a 41-year-old former Georgetown student who said one of his goals was to put Sudan’s laws in “conformity with international human rights.” He took over that role after the former Sudanese ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted after protests in 2019.

In May, the nation announced another change: It would soon outlaw female genital mutilation. Anyone caught performed FGM could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Now there’s confirmation that these changes — and more — have finally been enacted.

According to Abdulbari, reforms that became law last week include:

Non-Muslims (about 3% of the population) are permitted to drink alcohol in private.
The apostasy law is no longer in effect.
There will be no more public floggings.
Female genital mutilation is banned.
Women don’t need their husband’s permission to travel alone with their kids.

It’s still a far cry from a society that values civil liberties, but these are huge steps for a nation previously governed under Islamic law. Perhaps when people realize these changes won’t create chaos, they’ll be willing to let other restrictions slide, too.



Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-Muslims

12 July 2020

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sudanese drinkers have had to secretly make their own alcohol until now

After more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan has outlined wide-reaching reforms including allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol, and scrapping the apostasy law and public flogging.

“We [will] drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

A raft of new laws were passed last week but this is the first public explanation of their contents.

Sudan has also banned female genital mutilation (FGM).

Under the new laws, women no longer need permission from a male relative to travel with their children.

The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests.

The current government is an uneasy mixture of those groups which ousted Mr Bashir and his former allies in the military, who ultimately staged a coup against him.

What is the new law on alcohol?

Non-Muslims are now allowed to consume alcohol in private, however the ban on Muslim drinking remains, Mr Abdulbari told state TV.

Non-Muslims could still be punished if they are caught drinking with Muslims, the Sudan Tribune reports him as saying.

He explained that the government was trying to safeguard the rights of the country’s non-Muslims, who make up an estimated 3% of the population.

They are now allowed to drink, import and sell alcohol.

“We are keen to demolish any kind of discrimination that was enacted by the old regime and to move toward equality of citizenship and a democratic transformation,” he said.

The laws were initially approved in April but the BBC’s Mohamed Osman in Khartoum says they have only now taken effect.

What about the other changes?

Until now, anyone convicted of renouncing Islam, or apostasy, could face the death penalty.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women’s groups have been campaigning for an easing of various Sudanese laws

The best known case was of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, a pregnant woman who was sentenced to be hanged after she married a Christian man in 2014.

She managed to flee the country but the apostasy law - targeting those deemed to have abandoned Islam - has remained on the statute books until now.

The declaration that someone was an apostate was “a threat to the security and safety of society,” Mr Abdulbari said.

Under Mr Bashir, the morality police would often carry out public flogging for various misdemeanours but Mr Abdulbari said this punishment had now been abolished.

The latest changes come after a restrictive public order law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public was repealed in November.

The imposition of strict Islamist laws in the 1980s was a key factor in the long-running civil war which eventually led to independence for South Sudan, where the majority of people are Christian or follow traditional religions.