Change.org petition photo - Courtesy of Change.org
CAIRO – 14 May 2018: Three United Nations agencies – U.N. Women, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and the U.N. Office of the Special Advisor on Africa – appealed to Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday to pardon teenager Noura Hussein, who is sentenced to death by hanging for killing her husband who raped her in April.
In a joint statement, the three agencies said, "Reports indicate that she was forced against her will into marriage at the age of 16. She was raped by her husband while his three male relatives held her down."
"Speaking as the voices of women and girls of the world, we plead with the government of Sudan to save the life of Hussein," the statement added.
Hussein was forcibly married to her cousin in 2017 at 16 years of age. She ran away from home and sought refuge at her aunt’s house for three years until she was tricked into returning home by her family. Later, she was sent to her husband’s family, despite her father’s claims that the marriage was cancelled. Five days later, Hussein was raped by her husband with the assistance of his brother, a relative and a witness who held her down, according to the petition. When he tried to rape her again the following day, she stabbed him to death and escaped to her parents, who handed her to the police. Hussien’s husband’s family rejected the possibility of financial compensation and chose execution when the judge asked them what they want to happen, according to a supporter who attended the hearing and posted the details on the Twitter.
Hussien’s legal team is preparing to appeal the death penalty and they have until May 25 to do so. They will build their defense case on the fact that she is a victim of child marriage and that she acted in self-defense, having been mentally and psychologically disturbed as a result of rape. Hussein's team requested international media attention and the support of the United Nations.
The U.N., international rights groups and human rights activists called for Hussein's conviction to be overturned, as her case has attracted widespread attention on social media, with the hashtag #JusticeForNoura trending on Twitter since Thursday. Equality Now, a non-governmental organization established in 1992 to work for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world, also prepared a letter to Sudan’s president on Hussein’s behalf, requesting that she be pardoned. “Noura Hussein’s death sentence violates her rights under the Sudanese constitution and international law,” Equality Now’s letter stated. Moreover, Change.org launched an online petition on her behalf that has attracted over 300,000 signatures.
In addition, Amnesty International started a campaign to appeal to Sudan’s Minister of Justice Idris Ibrahim Jamil. “The courts are saying Noura is guilty of premeditated murder – even though she was defending herself from being raped by a man she was forced to marry when she was just a young teenager,” said Amnesty International in a statement.
Sudan ranks 165 of 188 countries on the U.N. Gender Inequality Index 2017, which measures women’s access to resources and services compared to men. The country has not yet signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and it allows the marriage of children over the age of ten.
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