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‘Sexual violence, FGM on the increase in Sudan’

November 25 - 2018 KHARTOUM
Schoolgirls in Sudan (File photo)
Schoolgirls in Sudan (File photo)

A Sudanese human rights organisation has highlighted an increase in sexual and physical violence against women and children in the country, as well as endemic female genital mutilation (FGM).

Speaking at the launch of the 16-day Women’s Initiative and Building Trust campaign to combat violence against women in Khartoum on Thursday evening, Nahid Jabrallah, the director of Sima Centre for the Protection of Women and Children, said that the rate of FGM in Sudan is 65 per cent while the rate of marriage for underage girls is 37 per cent.

She has called for addressing the Public Order Act, which violates the dignity of women and the Personal Status Code, which allows the marriage of underage girls.

Female circumcision

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

According to the Sudan Household Survey (2010), nearly nine out of 10 Sudanese women (88 per cent) between 15 and 49 years old in Sudan are 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 including No to Oppression of Women and women activists have called upon Khartoum to draft deterrent provisions in the Child Act to criminalise FGM, along with reconsidering the age of marriage at 18 years.

Child brides

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.

“The early marriage of girls is codified in the Personal Status Law of 1991,” Nahid Jabrallah stressed in comments last month, 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.

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