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Sudanese Women Call for Amending Personal Status Law

Sudanese Women Call for Amending Personal Status Law

Friday, 13 March, 2020 - 13:00

The women of Sudan- despite their prominent role in public life and in the December Revolution- suffer gravely from legal prejudice against them, personified in the personal status law that they are demanding either be repealed or changed.

Civil society activists, human rights activists and politicians organized a protest near the Ministry of Justice in Khartoum, demanding that the law is either repealed or that several of its articles on child custody, marriage age and travel permission are nullified.

Manal Matar, an activist, told Asharq Al-Awsat that article 24 of the law gives the male guardian the right to dissolve marriage for "incompetence", and article 40 puts the legal age for marriage at ten years of age.

“For this reason, Sudan has the world’s highest rate of child marriages”.

She stressed the need to repeal paragraph 1 of article 119 of the personal status law, which prohibits women from traveling with their children without their father’s permission.

Long legal battles waged over women’s right to keep their children and the right to travel with them freely came to no avail. Women also spearheaded a social media campaign, "Be Strong", which was engaged with strongly. However, so far, it has fallen short of meeting its goal of amending the law.

Ikhlas Kabashi, a divorcee, believes that the Sudanese personal status law pushes women into despair and contaminates Sudanese families with patriarchy. She adds: "I hope that the efforts of women activists who defend women's rights will succeed after this arduous journey and struggle."

The Noon Feminist Movement, which works on defending the rights of women and minorities, launched a solidarity campaign to support medical activist Adiba al-Sayyid, who was brought to trial after complaints that she said was “malicious” were raised against her by the security apparatuses.

Noon described Adiba as an “activist” and held banners with “Be Strong” written on them to support her. They also organized cultural activities, art exhibitions and cinematic performances in Sudan to celebrate Women's Day.

Since the fall of president Omar al-Bashir, many women’s issues have come to the forefront of public debate, especially legal prejudice against women, alterations to personal status laws and women’s representation in legislative bodies.

The constitutional declaration that governs the transitional period stipulates that 40% of the seats in the legislative council are to be allocated to women and grants women prominent state positions, such as the chief justice, the minister of foreign affairs, membership of the sovereignty council and a number of other ministries.

Many women have also been promoted to high ranks in the military such as major general and lieutenant general. The United Nations describes the conditions of women in the world as changing slowly and "painfully". Although some countries have made progress in this regard, it says "No single country can claim that it has fully achieved gender equality or increased employment opportunities for women.”

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