Human rights groups around the world have expressed outrage over the fact that that a Muslim teen in Sudan, Noura Hussein, was sentenced to death this week for murdering husband after he had raped her.
According to this report Hussein had no desire to get married. She was about 16, an aspiring teacher who hadn’t even finished high school. But the Sudanese teenager’s family forced her to marry the man of their choosing, a cousin, against her will. Her family made a contract with the groom’s family, and the marriage was settled.
It was a trap. Hussein’s family forced her to participate in a wedding ceremony and move in with her arranged husband. And when she refused to consummate the marriage, her husband sought the help of his brother and cousins. The men held her down as her husband raped her, according to activists in Sudan and her lawyer, who spoke to the Associated Press.
The following day he tried to rape her again, her lawyer told the AP. Hussein grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him to death. Her legal team called it a desperate act of defence. A court in Sudan called it murder.
Late last month, Hussein was found guilty of premeditated murder. On Thursday, she was sentenced to death by hanging. Her legal team was given 15 days to appeal the sentence before the execution, according to witnesses in the courtroom, who spoke to The Washington Post and documented the hearing on social media.
Hussein’s conviction and pending execution prompted an international campaign calling for clemency for the young woman. Across social media, Sudanese activists and supporters in Europe, Australia and Washington have rallied around Hussein. Her case, they say, sheds light on a culture that subjects women to male violence, and a broken justice system that renders many women powerless.
In Sudan, a girl as young as 10 can be legally married with the permission of a judge and a guardian, Reuters reported.
Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, wrote in a statement:
Noura Hussein is a victim and the sentence against her is an intolerable act of cruelty.
Under sharia law in Sudan, a person found guilty of murder is either executed or forced to pay a fine. Forced child marriage and marital rape are not considered crimes in Sudan, and cannot be used as evidence in a defence. The deceased individual’s family chooses the punishment, demanding either a pardon, monetary compensation or a death sentence. The whole family has to agree on the punishment.
The judge asked the deceased man’s family which option they wanted, and the family chose execution. As the judge granted the sentence, the man’s family began “clapping with joy”, according to witnesses cited by Hussein’s campaign. Outside the courtroom, supporters of Hussein protested with anti-death penalty signs before being “harassed” by state security troops and told to leave.
Hussein’s case is significant, Afrika Youth Movement wrote:
Not only because she is one of the many women in a similar situation – subjected to patriarchal male violence, blamed and abandoned by community, at the mercy of religious laws, without recourse to justice. She is also one the many women who refused to submit to this violence and stood up to defend herself.
Magango, of Amnesty International, said that by applying the “cruel” death penalty to a rape victim, Sudanese authorities failed to acknowledge the violence Hussein endured.
The Sudanese authorities must quash this grossly unfair sentence and ensure that Noura gets a fair retrial that takes into account her mitigating circumstances. Noura Hussein’s life-long wish was to become a teacher but she ended up being forced to marry an abusive man who raped and brutalised her, Now she has been slapped with a death sentence.
Hat tip: Gaurav Tyagi