Sexual Crime & Punishment In Sudan: The Ordeal of an Ethiopian Rape Victim

(Photo: Creative Commons)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: February 23rd, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — It sounds like a scene straight out of a bad horror movie — imagine yourself as an 18-year-old woman, 3-months pregnant, a refugee in a foreign land, house hunting, when you’re lured into an empty home, assaulted by seven men, gang-raped (on camera) and after being discovered by a policeman, arrested, charged and convicted of an “indecent act.”

Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened in Khartoum, Sudan six months ago to a young Ethiopian woman who last week was sentenced to one month in prison (now suspended) and a fine of 5,000 Sudanese Pounds. Thankfully the Ethiopian woman was spared from being killed by stoning, which is the standard penalty for such accusations under Sudan’s adultery law. In a press statement, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) noted: “The conviction of indecent acts against the woman seeks to place culpability upon the part of the victim, but is also notable in that the conviction of adultery was dropped as a verdict of adultery rests upon a demonstration of consent on her part, which could not be proven.”

The victim (who is now nine-months pregnant) still faces additional immigration-related charges for allegedly staying in the country illegally. And, if found guilty, could face up to two years in jail. According to SIHA: “The case has raised multiple challenges regarding the treatment of rape survivors and their capacity to pursue justice and exacerbates the risk that those who have been raped and victimized already maybe re-victimized by the judicial system and subject to imprisonment, fines or at worst corporal punishment.”

Hala Elkarib, SIHA Network’s Regional Director stated that, “This verdict reflects the substantial challenges in enabling victims of sexual violence to pursue justice. It will also serve to prevent future victims from speaking out and seeking assistance and entrenches a culture of impunity for perpetrators.” Elkarib added: “Women migrants and IDPs are some of the most marginalized people in Sudan and most vulnerable to violence, abuse and persecution. The Sudanese judiciary today has demonstrated its incapacity to protect the most vulnerable in society and instead attempt to delegitimize those that experience abuse at the hands of its citizens. The leveling of immigration charges against the victim further denies her protection by the state and protracts the punishment and emotional stress against her whilst she has been subjected to the most brutal of crimes.”

The statement from SIHA points out that “the victim has now further been threatened by the court with Article 30-A of the passports and immigration law (of 1994) translated as ‘punishment for illegal entry: anyone who enters Sudan illegally and stays in the country illegally, faces a jail sentence not less than one year and not more than two years or faces a fine or both sentences.’”

As for her attackers, apparently an online posting in January of the incident filmed by the perpetrators themselves led to their arrests and investigation. “Three were convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes, whilst a further two were convicted of indecent acts and sentenced to 40 lashes, one with an added 3000SDG (577USD approx) fine and the other with an added 2000SDG (385USD approx) fine. A sixth person involved with incident was set free due to insufficient evidence against him. A further man was convicted of Article 153, distributing indecent material, and was sentenced to 40 lashes and a fine of 10,000 SDG (1,923USD approx). Those subject to lashings had their sentences carried out immediately afterwards in a closed court setting.”

Related:
Sudan Court Convicts Teenage Gang-Rape Victim Of ‘Indecent Acts’ (The Guardian)

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