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Child marriage 'is legalised rape': Women activists in Sudan

October 16 - 2018 KHARTOUM
A girls' school in El Hasahisa camp, Central Darfur (file photo)
A girls' school in El Hasahisa camp, Central Darfur (file photo)

Women rights groups and activists have described the early marriage of girls as “legalised rape and a crime against childhood”, following a parliamentary session about children's rights.

“Sudan's Personal Status Law is flawed and violates the rights of girls and women,” said Dr. Aisha El Karib. The executive director of the Sudanese Organisation for Research and Development (SORD) spoke to Radio Dabanga following a parliamentary session about children rights.

In addition Nahid Jabrallah, who is the director of the Sima Centre for Training and Protection of Women and Children's Rights, also described the marriage of under-aged girls as a crime that must be stopped. “There are health risks and violations involved that lead to loss of life, as well as the deprivation of the girls' basic rights to safety, education and a sound social development.”

According to Jabrallah, the rate of marriage of under-aged girls in Sudan is 37 per cent. This rate rises to 60 per cent in the rural areas. She added that certain entities in Sudan openly support the idea of female genital mutilation, as well as early marriage.

“The early marriage of girls is codified in the Personal Status Law of 1991,” she stressed, a law still active as of today. Jabrallah accused the ministry of social welfare of delaying the amendment to the article by the parliament, and called on international organisations to follow-up with government bodies in order to meet their obligations in relation to the protection of children.

Female circumcision

In June 2015, legal experts demanded the formulation of a national law that prohibits female genital mutilation (FGM) in all states of Sudan. The Sudanese government had claimed to be working on such legislation in 2012.

According to the Sudan Household Survey (2010), nearly nine out of 10 Sudanese women (88 percent) between 15 and 49 years old in Sudan is circumcised. A reported trend in these results was that the practice of female circumcision happens less among younger Sudanese women of 15-19 years old.

The traditional belief in Sudan is that cutting the external genitals of a girl, ensures the family honour and her prospects in marriage. But the mutilation can lead to infections, and in worse cases, infertility, or complications during childbirth. The practice of FGM in Sudan was one of the reasons for researchers of the Thomas Reuters Foundation to rank Sudan as one of the worst countries for women's rights.

For years rights groups and women activists called upon Khartoum for drafting deterrent provisions in the Child Act to criminalise female genital mutilation, along with reconsidering the age of marriage at 18 years. The Sudanese initiative “No to Oppression of Women” is one of such groups.


Women bear the brunt of suffering (March 8, 2017)

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