Sudan repeals death penalty for apostasy, allows alcohol in wide-ranging reforms

Sudan repeals death penalty for apostasy, allows alcohol in wide-ranging reforms
A ban on Female Genital Mutilation [FGM], repealing the death penalty for apostasy and allowing the drinking of alcohol are among a set of wide-ranging laws reformed by Sudan.
2 min read
12 July, 2020
Sudan's ruling council announced the new reforms [Getty]
Sudan's minister of justice has announced a wide-ranging easing of its criminal laws, including repealing the death penalty for apostasy and lashing for drinking alcohol.

Nasredeen Abdulbari said the amendments to the 1991 Criminal Law brought by the former President Omar al-Bashir government, is designed to ensure religious freedom for all its citizens, including Christians and other minority groups.

"We cancelled the Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Law and have ensured religious freedom and the equality in citizenship and rule of law," he said.

"All these changes are aiming at achieving equality in front of the laws. We have dropped all the articles that had led to any kind of discrimination. We ensure our people that the legal reformation will continue until we drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan," he added.

Sudan will now seek retribution for crimes, reserving the death sentence for cases of murder and other heinous crimes.

On Thursday, Sudan's ruling body ratified a law banning the widespread practice of female genital mutilation, handing the movement for women's rights in the African country a long-sought victory.

The draft law had been approved by the transitional government that came to power last year following the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

A UN-backed survey in 2014 estimated 87 percent of Sudanese women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the procedure.

Most undergo an extreme form known as infibulation, which involves the removal and repositioning of the labia to narrow the vaginal opening.

Anyone found guilty of performing the procedure will be sentenced to up to three years in prison, according to a copy of the new law obtained by The Associated Press.

Female genital mutilation "degrades the dignity of women", the justice ministry declared in its statement.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hailed the decision as "an important step in reforming the justice system".

Another amendment adopted on Thursday allows Sudanese mothers to travel with their children outside the country without permission from their spouses.

"Legal reviews and amendments will continue," Hamdok pledged, "Until we address all distortions in the legal systems in Sudan", with the justice minister confirming a commission to study laws and recommend their reforms is due to be set up as early as next week.

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