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Last updateSam, 31 Jan 2015 10am

International rights body urges Sudan to allow gang-raped woman access to justice

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - An Ethiopian woman, gang-raped in August 2013 by a group of seven men in Sudan and later sentenced to one month in prison after she was found guilty of committing indecent acts, now faces possible deportation and charges under legal provisions that deal with adultery, women’s rights group Equality Now said Friday.

A report by the group, made available to PANA here, said urgent action was needed following an appeal filed on the victim’s behalf against the new criminal charges.

According to the report, the court hearing on the immigration charges against the victim who was 19 years old, pregnant and divorced at the time of the assault, has been scheduled for 2 April 2014.

“This case highlights the overwhelming challenges women face in obtaining justice in Sudan for rape and sexual violence,” said Equality Now, noting that the rapists who confessed to the crime were sentenced to lashes and fines.

Three of the perpetrators have been convicted of adultery, two of indecent acts, and one of distributing indecent material. Their sentences consisted of lashes and fines but the seventh person was freed due to insufficient evidence.

Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.

According to the group’s account, the Ethiopian woman was lured to an empty property and brutally gang-raped by seven men.

“After a disturbing film of the rape surfaced online in January 2014, the authorities arrested everyone involved, including the victim. She was subsequently charged with ‘offending public morality’ and found guilty of committing indecent acts – by being raped,” the report said.

“She has since been sentenced to prison time, levied a hefty fine of 5000 Sudanese Pounds (approximately US$900), and now faces possible deportation and charges under legal provisions that deal with adultery (zina), which criminalises pregnant unmarried women – even divorcees.”

Equality Now has urged the international community to call on Sudanese officials to drop all charges against the young woman and to reform Sudanese laws to support victims of sexual violence instead of criminalising them.

The rights group said that Sudan’s Attorney General has – without legal basis – consistently blocked her from filing a rape complaint on the basis that she was under investigation for the criminal offence of offending public morality.

“Since being arrested, and despite being close to giving birth, the young woman has been held in police cells and, until recently, been consistently denied placement in a medical facility,” said the group’s report, adding that her sentence has been suspended due to her pregnancy, and she has been placed under probation for six months.

While demanding urgent legal reform, particularly to article 149 of the criminal code referring to rape, Equality Now wants the prosecution to drop all criminal charges against the young woman, and cease any legal action to deport her to Ethiopia.

In addition, it said that the young woman should be promptly provided with adequate medical and psychological support as a victim and survivor of sexual violence.

Pana 16/03/2014