Her dream was to go through the four walls of classrooms, study, become a judge, and marry afterwards. How wrong she was as her parents had other plans for her in accordance to Sudanese custom. She was married off to a 35-year-old man at the age of 15. Unable to manage her anger and resentment for her husband, in a self-defence battle, she killed her husband, leaving the Sudanese government to sentence her to death. Oluwatosin Omoniyi with agency reports
However, respite came the way of Noura Hussein, the rape victim, when her death sentence was overturned to a 5-year jail term. It was a hugely welcome news, globally. Last Tuesday, an appeal court commuted her sentence to five years in jail instead and a fine of 337,500 Sudanese pounds (£14,200).
Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging last month by an Islamic court after stabbing and killing her husband who was also her cousin, whom she said her father forced her to marry. The teenager’s story has put a spotlight on forced marriage and marital rape in Sudan, where the legal age to enter into marriage is 10 and marital rape is not a crime.
In a case that sparked international outrage, Hussein finally spoke out about her forced marriage, and the rape and struggle that happened when she stabbed him. CNN obtained a first-hand account from the 19-year-old, who is currently awaiting retrial in an Omdurman prison cell after appealing her death sentence. Hussein’s family made her get married at 15, but allowed her to finish school. Three years later, after a public marriage ceremony, her husband tried to consummate the marriage. After refusing to have sex with him on their “honeymoon,” she says he raped her as members of his family held her down. A day later her husband tried to rape her again, and she stabbed him to death. When she went to her parents for support, they turned her over to the police.
He told my parents that he wanted to marry me when I was in the 8th grade.
They fooled me after I sat the secondary school exams at the end of that year.
And the first time I even saw him was a week after he proposed the marriage to my uncle.
And from the first time they told me, I refused. I told them I don’t want to marry, I want to study.
I spoke to him directly and said, “I don’t want to marry you.”
I fled to Sinnar to my aunt’s house, but two days later they brought me back and the religious ceremony took place, two weeks after he first proposed, in our house.
Afterwards I had no communication with him. If he visited the house, I left. I told him, I do not want you.
The wedding ceremony was three years later after I sat my school leaver exam. They did all the usual rituals for the wedding, his family are well off, but in all that time I didn’t take anything from him, not a single penny.
I was overwhelmed with anger; I did not want this man.
I sat in the hairdressers shop contemplating suicide.
I cried sitting next to him. In the car, he kept coming closer to me and I kept moving away. We arrived at the honeymoon flat; I locked myself inside one of the rooms and lay down fully clothed.
This went on, I refused to eat, I refused to leave my room. On the third day, he told me “it is time you open the door so I don’t break in.” I refused but while he slept, I crept out and found the door to the flat was locked.
On the ninth day his relatives came, his uncle told me to go to the bedroom. I said no so he dragged me by my arm into the bedroom and his cousin slapped me. All of them tore at my clothing. His uncle held me down by my legs and each of the other two held down my arms. He stripped and had me while I wept and screamed. Finally, they left the room. I was bleeding and I slept naked.
The next day, he grabbed me, threw me on the bed and tried to climb on top of me. I was fighting back and my hand found a knife under the pillow. We began grappling over the knife. He cut my hand and bit down on my shoulder.
I ran to my parent’s house. I had no idea how I got there. I was still carrying the knife.
I was hoping to finish studying law and then marry; my dream is to be a judge.
According to the UN’s Gender Inequality Index, Sudan is ranked 165 out of 188 countries on. Both boys and girls can be married as young as 10 in Sudan, and the penal code does not outlaw marital rape.
Meanwhile, Human rights watchdog Amnesty International had launched a ‘Justice for Noura’ campaign seeking to draw attention to Sudan’s discriminatory laws which leave women and girls vulnerable to child marriage and domestic violence.
Amnesty welcomed the commuting of Ms Hussein’s sentence but said President Omar al Bashir must now pardon her altogether and the case must serve as a “catalyst” for a change in the law. Seif Magango, the Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes, said in a statement. “While the quashing of this death sentence is hugely welcome news, it must now lead to a legal review to ensure that Noura Hussein is the last person to go through this ordeal.
The Sudanese authorities must take this opportunity to start reforming the laws around child marriage, forced marriage and marital rape, so that victims are not the ones who are penalised.”
According to CNN report, the Sudanese government has not responded to its requests for comment on the case.
Marital rape, forced marriage, and domestic violence seem to the most commonest nightmare Sudanese women and young children face. It’s a crime committed against them with impunity and the country’s policy allows it.
Meanwhile, in a new study released late last year, the “shocking scale” of violence against women and girls in South Sudan was said to double the global average. The first comprehensive report on the “magnitude, frequency and brutality” of such violence in South Sudan’s conflict zones was released by the International Rescue Committee and George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute. “As the world’s youngest nation approaches its fifth year of civil war, rape has often been used as a weapon by both government and opposition forces,” the study revealed.
It added that, “up to 65 percent of women and girls interviewed for the new study said they had experienced sexual or physical violence. More than half of the women reported domestic abuse. Women and girls living in the United Nations-run civilian protection site in the capital, Juba, were most vulnerable to sexual violence.”
The study emphasised that the “breakdown in the rule of law” in South Sudan, aide perpetrators to go unpunished. “As we have seen in South Sudan time and again since this war started, armed forces on all sides engage in sexual violence with impunity. It is used both opportunistically and as a weapon of war to intimidate, punish and abuse civilians,” said Jehanne Henry, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.
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