The sovereign Council, the highest body of power in Sudan, has approved Friday a law to criminalize female circumcision, an ancient practice that is still widespread in the country.
The announcement was made in a press release by the ministry of Justice.
The sovereign Council, composed of civilians, including women and the military, has approved a series of laws that criminalise female circumcision, a practice ” that violates the dignity of women “, according to the release.
At the end of April, the government had passed an amendment to the penal code which makes the perpetrators of female circumcision is punishable by prison terms of up to three years of imprisonment with payment of a fine.
“The mutilation of the genital organs of the woman is now seen as a crime” and “any person who uses it will be sentenced to a penalty of up to three years in prison,” according to the text of the law amended. The clinic or the location of the excision may also be closed.
On Twitter, the Prime minister of the sudan, Abdallah Hamdok, has lauded ” an important step on the path of judicial reform, and the realization of the slogan of the revolution -freedom, peace and justice “.
The authorities would ” review the laws and make amendments to address the flaws in the judicial system “, he added.
“Rite of passage”
The announcement comes more than a year after falling in April 2019 of the regime of Omar el-Bashir, under the pressure of a popular revolt.
The ex-autocrat, remained at the head of the country for 30 years after a coup backed by islamists, was rejected in 2015, a draft law against female circumcision, which involves removal of all or part of the external genital organs for non-medical purposes.
The sudanese women themselves have played a leading role in the revolt that culminated, after the fall of Mr. Bashir, now in prison, on the training in August 2019 for a transitional government to a civil authority.
Even before its promulgation, the amendment had been welcomed by the organisations for the defence of human rights, which call tirelessly for a ban, pure and simple.
In Sudan, female genital cutting, which can be fatal in some cases, is still seen as a “rite of passage” –nearly nine out of 10 women have suffered, according to the united Nations. This is also the case in a number of significant countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in particular in rural areas.
“This practice is not only a violation of the rights of young women, she (…) has serious consequences for the physical and mental health”, said Abdullah Fadil, a Unicef representative in Khartoum.
If the the more conservative circles believe that it preserves chastity, and a number of religious leaders have spoken out against.
The criminalization of the practice is only one step in a long process of societal to his disappearance.
In Sudan, according to the defenders of women’s rights, female genital cutting has returned in the last three decades of the areas where it had ceased to be practiced, such as including the mountains of Nubia (north).
Last march, the activists in sudan had expressed disappointment with the reluctance of the new authorities to improve their rights, and had called for the abolition or the amendment of several laws that were deemed discriminatory against women.
They had mentioned in particular, the low representation of women in government, the absence of a law criminalizing sexual harassment and the personal status law of 1991, inspired by the sharia (islamic law), which allows, among other things, according to them, to give in marriage the daughters ten years old and does not have the consent of the woman in marriage contracts.