The ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) and an end to child marriage will be strictly enforced in Sudan as the country’s authorities vowed to adhere to African charter on child rights.
The announcement has been welcomed by rights activists as a major step forward for the rights of women and girls.
Following the passing of a new law in July, police officers were told on Wednesday they must inform local communities that FGM is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail.
“Police officers will have a major responsibility to intervene and curb this crime against humanity,” said the director general of police, Ezzeldin El Sheikh.
The director general added that religious leaders in the largely Muslim country would play a key role in ending the practice and that the move should allay concerns the practice was so deeply entrenched in society the law could not be enforced.
A UN study has found that 87% of Sudanese women have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Girls are typically cut between the ages of just five and 14.
The Sudanese council of ministers also announced this week it is to end child marriage and adopt all articles of the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child, which came into force in 1999.
Previously Sudan had resisted moves to ban marriage before the age of 18, despite supporting UN human rights council resolutions to end child marriage.
About a third of girls in Sudan are married before they turn 18.
Equality Now’s director of programmes, Niki Kandirikirira, said: “The work [to end child marriage]now awaits the government to implement the law through programmes addressing social norms and through making it clearly punitive to breach the law.”
Kandirikirira added that she “welcome comments by police chief Lt Gen Ezzeldin El Sheikh in highlighting that FGM is now forbidden by law in Sudan and those involved can face arrest,” and hoped that the police chief’s words will translate into action his force.
In the wake of Sudan’s victorious December revolution in 2018, which ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s civilian-led transition government has set about reforming the country, departing from almost four decades of hardline Islamist policies.
As well as FGM and child marriage, the government has ended prohibitions against religious conversion from Islam, permitted non-Muslims to drink alcohol and stipulated that women will no longer need permission from a male member of their family to travel with their children.
World leaders have pledged to eliminate FGM and end child marriage by 2030. (Source: The Guardian)