A Sudanese teenager has been sentenced to death for killing her husband who raped her while male relatives held her down for him. 19-year-old Noura Hussein says her father made her marry the man when she was sixteen. The man is also her cousin. The legal age of consent in Sudan is 10.
Last month, a Sharia court found Hussein guilty of premeditated murder. Sudan follows the Islamic Sharia Laws. On Thursday, May 10, Hussein was officially sentenced to her death by hanging. Time is running out for the 19-year-oldd, with her lawyers having only fifteen days from the time of sentencing to appeal.
Hussein did not accept the union that was forced on her and chose instead to run away. She found refuge with a relative with whom she lived for three years. This April, she returned to her family home. She made the trip to the outskirts of the capital city of Khartoum because her father informed her that the wedding was off. On arrival, however, she discovered that she had been cruelly fooled and that all the preparations for her upcoming nuptials were already under way.
After the ceremony, Hussein refused to allow her new husband to have sex with her. The man did not make any move at the time. Six days later, however, he cornered her along with three of his male relatives. He raped her while his relatives held her captive. Unsatisfied with just the one time, he made another attempt the next day. In the struggle that ensued, Hussein stabbed her rapist and killed him.
"Under Sharia law, the husband's family can demand either monetary compensation or death. They chose death and now the death penalty has been handed down," Badr Eldin Salah, an activist from the Afrika Youth Movement who was in the court, told Mirror.
"Noura's lawyers say they plan to appeal against the decision, but we also need strong international support from organisations such as the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union to support her."
Sudan is ranked at a lowly 165th out of 188 countries on the UN's Gender Inequality Index. The Index ranks nations based on how women are treated in comparison to men especially in terms of access to health, education, political participation and employment opportunities. Violence against women is considered prevalent in the nation. Sudan is not a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The country has extremely week provisions in place for the protection of women and girls. Marital rape is not considered a crime and is widely practiced in this African nation. Any woman may be married off once she has reached the age of puberty.
According to UN Women, one in three Sudanese women are married before they reach the age of 18. The sentence has drawn worldwide anger and criticism. Petitions for Hussein’s release are circulating online. They have already collected thousands of signatures.
Equality Now, along with a number of other campaign groups, has said that they are writing pleas of clemency to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
"Noura is a victim, not a criminal, and should be treated as such. In many countries, victims like Noura would be provided services to ensure that they overcome the trauma of their experiences," said Equality Now's Global Director Yasmeen Hassan.
"Criminalisation of Noura for defending herself from assault and, in particular a death sentence, would violate her rights under the Sudanese Constitution and international law."
An online campaign using the tag #JusticeForNoura has gained attention on social media and people across the world have expressed their ire at the case. Despite rising international pressure, there has been no definite move on the part of the Sudanese government to save Hussein. The young woman is quickly running out of time and options.