Human rights activists worldwide are fighting to defend life of Sudanese young woman Noura Hussein (19), who was forcefully married, and raped by the man assisted by his relatives during the act #JusticeforNoura. The self-imposed “husband” was killed in a second rape attempt in an act of self-defence, Noura’s supporters claim. The incident characterises the dramatic situation of women in Sudan, where the society deprives them of any rights, degrading to a level of commodity. In case of Noura, even a few rudimentary rights given by Sharia law prohibiting forceful marriages were not respected.
At present jailed Noura is waiting for the second court sitting in an appeal procedure, after losing the first session. A death sentence verdict was received by the cheerful relatives of the defunct ‘husband‘. However the decision of the judge can be overtured in case the defence will be able to proof the marriage procedure was conducted in breach of Sharia law granting women a right to refuse. In case this marriage procedure without a consent is recognised as illegal, and annulated, the killed rapist would be stripped off his legal status of a ‘husband‘, creating a different perception of the cause of events.
In Sudan the engagement is usually arranged between families for their children, and bride price is a common practice, but Islamic requirement for a legal marriage include an obligation for both parties bride, her guardian (wali), and groom to be consensual. A marriage without consent, under coercion is illegal according to the most reputable Muslim scholars.
As a teenager Noura was forced into a marriage by her father, but she refused and escaped from her family home near Khartoum to stay with her aunt in Sennar 250 km away. After three years in exile Noura was informed that the marriage plans were cancelled, and she decided to return to her father’s home.
At arrival to Khartoum Noura was forced into the wedding ceremony, arranged by her family, who highly likely received a handsome payment from the groom, according to the tradition of bride price in Sudan, where 10-year girls are sold as commodities.
Noura was married in a Muslim ceremony in spite of her protests, distraught, she refused to consummate the marriage for a number of days, but Noura’s self-imposed husband find a way out of the argument by raping her, with the complicity of his relatives who in a gang pinned her down during the act.
A Sharia court found Noura guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced her to death by hanging, however her lawyers have 15 days to appeal.
In Sudan the Personal Status of Muslims Act of 1991 allows children – boys or girls – as young as 10 to marry, 38% of young women were married before the age of 18.