EU must save Noura Hussein
The EU must step in to save teenager sentenced to death for killing her husband as he attempted to rape her, writes Madi Sharma.
On 10 May, a Sudanese teenager was given the death sentence for killing her husband, in self-defence, as he attempted to rape her.
At just 16 years of age, Noura Hussein was forced by her parents to marry a man of their choosing. Wanting to continue her education, she ran 250 kilometres to a relative’s home. At 19, her parents persuaded her to return home, whereby they forced her to marry Abdulrahman Hammad.
Noura refused to consummate the marriage, so Abdulrahman Hammad‘s relatives held her down as he raped her. The details are harrowing. When he tried to rape her again, she ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. During the fight, Abdulrahman sustained fatal knife wounds and died. Noura sustained several injuries including bite marks and scratches.
The Sudanese authorities arrested Noura and the courts found her guilty of intentional murder. Last week, she was sentenced to death.
The Sudanese court did not take Noura’s full circumstances into consideration. The fact that she was a victim of forced marriage, that she had been previously raped by her husband, and that she was at risk of being raped again, were not evaluated factors. As Amnesty International reports, giving the death penalty to a rape victim is “the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
Amnesty International has condemned the ruling and asked the Sudanese authorities to give Noura a fair retrial, taking all the circumstances into consideration. This ruling is an example of the injustices women face in Sudan. It highlighted the failure of the Sudanese authorities to deal with child marriage, forced marriage and marital rape.
Noura’s case is not the first. In 2014, a pregnant Sudanese woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, was sentenced to death for adultery and for being Christian.
According to Unicef, Sudanese law allows children over the age of 10 to be married. Forced marriage is a serious issue in Sudan. In fact, approximately one in three girls in Sudan are married before their 18th birthday. Although Sudan has launched a campaign to end child marriage, clearly this is not being adequately enforced. The Sudanese authorities have also refused to recognise marital rape as a crime.
In 2018, the European Union funded 124 development and humanitarian projects worth €421m in Sudan. Sudan is also a beneficiary of trade agreements with the EU.
Sudan has not abolished the death penalty, nor taken any active steps to protect women and children’s rights.
Sudan has also refused to ratify the revised Cotonou Agreement, that establishes EU cooperation with 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP).
Despite this, the trade agreements between the EU and Sudan, as well as EU’s projects in Sudan have remained immune to meaningful criticisms for these violations.
The EU is based on the values of human dignity, human rights and equality. If the EU wishes to represent these principles, it must pressure Sudan to abolish the death penalty, and make child marriages and marital rape illegal. The promotion of human rights should be the EU’s priority, and the EU must ensure that Sudan signs and ratifies the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The European Union must use all its powers to speak out and save Noura Hussein.