Sudan's government is removing some of the most notorious restrictions of the three-decade rule of ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir, including loosening the prohibition on alcohol, officially banning female genital mutilation (FGM), and abolishing the death penalty-carrying apostasy law used to punish those who were seen to have abandoned their religious faith.
“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,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said in the first clarification of the content of laws passed last week. “We [will] drop all laws violating human rights in Sudan.”
The new laws represent an especially huge step forward for Sudanese women. In addition to the ratification of the amendment banning FGM into law, women will also no longer need written permission to travel with their own children from a male relative, a victory Sudanese women's groups have been fighting for for years. Public flogging has also been abolished, which was used by the morality police against alleged infractions, often for women's 'improper dress.'
Non-Muslims will also be allowed to drink, import, and sell alcohol, but only in private. Before, Sudanese drinkers were forced to create their alcoholic drinks themselves from scratch and could be punished if caught. Muslims, however, are still not legally allowed to drink and both Muslims and non-Muslims can be punished if caught drinking in each other’s presence.
Finally, the apostasy law has been abolished. Previously, anyone known to have left Islam was considered a threat to the safety of society. The most notorious case came in 2014, when Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, a pregnant woman was sentenced to be hanged after marrying a Christian. Although she managed to escape the country, her case brought the law to the public’s attention, and helped bring the change Sudan is seeing today.
Landscape image: A demonstration in Khartoum demanding Sudan end discriminatory laws against women. EPA.
Square image: Two girls walk past Arabic graffiti that reads "freedom, peace, justice, civilian." Mohamed Nureldin, Reuters.