Forced into marriage, raped, and now sentenced to death, Noura Hussein has until the 25th of May to appeal her death sentence.
Noura, 19, says her father made her contractually marry her cousin when she was 16, but she refused to accept the union and fled to live with a relative for three years. She returned home after being told the wedding was cancelled. This was a lie. Hussein was married against her will to Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad. The first marriage ceremony involved the signing of a marriage contract between her father and Abdulrahman. Later, she was forced to move into Abdulrahman’s home. When she refused to consummate the marriage, Abdulrahman invited two of his brothers and a male cousin to join him in raping her.
On the 2nd of May 2017, the three men held Noura Hussein down while Abdulrahman raped her. The next morning he tried to rape her again but she managed to escape to the kitchen where she grabbed a knife. In the struggle that ensued, Abdulrahman sustained fatal knife wounds.
After fleeing her home, Noura’s father handed her over to the police where they opened a case. Noura has been held at Omdurman Women’s Prison since May 2017.
Why the death sentence?
Noura’s case highlights a dichotomy in Sudan’s stated commitment to end child marriage, and its simultaneous use of outdated laws that fail to recognise marital rape. In defiance of the African Union Campaign to end child marriage in Africa, Noura was charged under the Criminal Act (1991) and found guilty of intentional murder on the 29th of April 2018 at the Central Criminal Court of Omdurman.
In a state where rape is not recognised as a crime, and one in three girls are married before the age of 18, it is a case that has cast international scrutiny on the laws (or lack thereof) that protect women. Sudan’s initiatives to end child marriage have done little to ameliorate the lives of those immediately affected. Fatoumata Ndiaye, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director has spoken of the need within the international community for a “shake up”; “We cannot continue to let so many of our girls miss out on their health, education, and childhood. At current rates, it will take over 100 years to eliminate child marriage in West and Central Africa”.
In October 2017, the UN held a high level conference on child marriage in West and Central Africa, and spoke of progress being possible – even in high prevalence countries. Whilst this discussion is promising, there is shortfall in meeting the immediate needs of young women like Noura, of whom there are countless.
What has the immediate reaction been?
Sudan’s social media platforms have been ablaze with outrage and solidarity. International pressure on the Sudanese Government for leniency in her sentence is building. UN women, the UN Populations Fund, Amnesty International among others have called on Sudanese authorities to quash the verdict handed down to the teenager. Earlier this week the EU has spoken of its “firm opposition to the death penalty, whatever the place or circumstance” in relation to Noura’s case.
What can I do?
Noura is a young woman with a life full of promise ahead of her, her lifelong wish has been to be a teacher.
She has fought with mettle, but time is running out. Her lawyers have until the 25th of May to appeal the decision.
Sign the petition at:
Email the Government of Sudan at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/urgent-save-noura-from-execution/
Tweet with the hashtag: #justicefornoura
Written by Naomi de Souza