Women in Sudan are living a daily struggle. Sharia laws and radical Islamists are violating and abusing civil rights and freedoms in every possible way. The Sudanese criminal code has the most terrorizing articles to silence people, amongst them article 126, 145 and 152 which criminalize apostasy, adultery and public order behavior. These articles and other Sharia laws should exist no more.
It was sad for me to witness the case of Meriam Ibrahim who was accused of apostasy (leaving Isalm) for being Christian, and adultery for not having her marriage approved. Meriam Ibrahim was arrested after authorities found out she had married a Christian man. According to Sharia laws, a women is not allowed to marry a non- Muslim, but a Muslim man can marry a non- Muslim woman! Authorities gave her time to convert to Muslim but she refused. Meriam was brought up by her Christian mother since her Muslim father left the family when she was at the age of 6 years. Meriam has always been Christian. It is a shame to see someone being punished for expressing his or her religious belief publicly.
Article 152 criminalizes a girl over her dress code. The thought of being harassed or even criminalized for not dressing according to modest Islamic standards, including wearing a head cover, is just terrifying. I, for example, refuse to dress according to the Sharia law standards because they do not represent my identity. As a result, I live in a constant fear of getting arrested and harassed by the public order police.
Moreover, according to the draft adultery law of 2009, a married woman’s punishment for adultery is death by stoning. It is a disgrace! In addition to that, if a victim of rape fails to prove the attack, she takes the risk of being accused of adultery. With this in mind it is no surprise that women do not report incidents of rape to the authorities.
The Sharia laws deny me my civil and fundamental rights. These laws discriminate between men and women. They do not represent me by any means or any Sudanese woman who respects and believes that we were born equal and we are to respect each other’s beliefs, religions and views and that no one is to be hindered or denied their rights and freedoms. I feel sorry for this country of mine, whose incredible ethnic, religious and racial diversity has become a weakness instead of a strength.
As a woman human rights defender working on culturally justified violence against women in Sudan, my aim is to challenge the growing harassment and violence against women and girls that is justified by the Sharia laws and our culture. I do this through law reform and advocacy campaigns to raise awareness amongst men, women and youth about their rights in the hope that one day this could lead our nation to a social, legal and political transformation.