Sudan scraps decades of hardline policies violating human rights

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Sudan will ban female genital mutilation (FGM), scrap its apostasy law and permit non-Muslims to drink alcohol in a decisive break with almost four decades of hardline Islamist policies, its justice minister has said.

“We [will]drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

A raft of new laws was passed last week but this is the first public explanation of their contents.

The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests.

Under the new laws, women no longer need permission from a male relative to travel with their children.

Anyone found guilty of performing FGM will be sentenced to up to three years in prison, according to a copy of the new law.

FGM “degrades the dignity of women”, the justice ministry said in its statement.

During Bashir’s rule some Sudanese clerics said forms of FGM were religiously allowed, arguing that the only debate was over whether it was required or not.

The current government is an uneasy mixture of those groups which ousted Mr Bashir and his former allies in the military, who ultimately staged a coup against him.

Non-Muslims are now allowed to consume alcohol in private, however the ban on Muslim drinking remains, Mr. Abdulbari told state TV.

He explained that the government was trying to safeguard the rights of the country’s non-Muslims, who make up an estimated 3% of the population.

“We are keen to demolish any kind of discrimination that was enacted by the old regime and to move toward equality of citizenship and a democratic transformation,” he said.

The laws were initially approved in April but the BBC’s Mohamed Osman in Khartoum says they have only now taken effect.

Until now, anyone convicted of renouncing Islam, or apostasy, could face the death penalty.

The best known case was of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, a pregnant woman who was sentenced to be hanged after she married a Christian man in 2014.

She managed to flee the country but the apostasy law – targeting those deemed to have abandoned Islam – has remained on the statute books until now.

The declaration that someone was an apostate was “a threat to the security and safety of society,” Mr. Abdulbari said.

Under Mr Bashir, the morality police would often carry out public flogging for various misdemeanours but Mr. Abdulbari said this punishment had now been abolished.

The latest changes come after a restrictive public order law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public was repealed in November.

The imposition of strict Islamist laws in the 1980s was a key factor in the long-running civil war which eventually led to independence for South Sudan, where the majority of people are Christian or follow traditional religions. (Source: BBC)

 

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