At the age of 19, Noura Hussein has been sentenced to die. A court in Sudan ruled that she was guilty of premeditated murder and thus was given the death penalty, execution by hanging. Of course, this is the end of a story that has been determined by widespread misogyny and mass human rights violations. When Noura was just 16, her father forced her to marry. Noura managed to escape to her Aunt’s house for three years.
But in 2017, she was tricked into coming home. Her father had told her that he had canceled the wedding and she was free to return home. Once she came back to her family’s house, Noura realized she had been tricked and was forced to marry. During the four days following this wedding, Noura refused to consummate the marriage until on the fifth day, she was forcibly held down by multiple male relatives, the majority related to her husband, while her husband raped her. The following day, her husband attempted to rape her again, and in a panic-driven act of self-defense, Noura stabbed and killed him. Noura went to her parents’ house for help, but her father turned her into the police for what she did. She was tried with premeditated murder and found guilty. Her husband’s family refused offers for compensation and instead demanded execution by hanging.
The verdict of Noura’s case reflects an unjust and misogynistic justice system and demonstrates just how deeply rooted human rights abuse is in Sudan. Also, Sudan has also twisted Sharia law to justify these practices. For example, Article 91 of Sudanese Family Law: “A married woman must obey her husband if he has paid the dowry and provides a suitable home.” This Article has been used against Noura, saying that it was her duty to consummate the marriage as shown by the law, and through Islam. However, this marriage was not consensual nor was it actually a marriage, and the justification of this marriage is utterly inaccurate according to Islamic law, which prohibits forced marriage. The Sudanese Constitution also prohibits forced marriage, meaning that it was not a case of marital rape, but this marriage cannot be legally recognized.
Probably the worst part of Noura’s situation is how common it is. Forced marriage is common, in Sudan, as is marital rape, and Sudan’s inability to hold the preparators of these crimes accountable and to punish the victims is a clear mass affront to human rights norms. The Sudanese Government has been actively carrying out a genocidal campaign in Darfur for over fifteen years, and forces regularly use rape as a weapon of war. The regime of indicted-war-criminal President Omar al-Bashir has been riddled with the systematic abuse of civilians and has been justified using a twisted version of Islamic law.
We must take action and demand justice for Noura! And many other women whose stories of abuse have gone unnoticed. If Noura is executed the continual oppression of women in Sudan will continue and we must ensure that this never happens to another woman. As allegations coming out that right now, the Trump Administration is working on normalizing relations with the Government of Sudan, which will only solidify Sudan’s current human rights abuses. We must raise our voices and ensure that the US does not reward Sudan for their continuing and worsening human rights violations. If the US continues to do warm relations with Sudan, there will never be justice for Noura, only the continual oppression of women in positions similar to her.