The plight of women in the African context still has a long way to go if any progress is to be achieved. The story in Sudan is a clear attestation to the retrogressive ideas of how women should submit to men and that women are the properties of men. The case of Noura Hussein speaks for itself.
Just when she thought the authorities and institutions which have a moral obligation to support her would do that, she was monumentally failed by the system which must support women and the girl child. Her family forsook her, and the justice system (is it even just?) handed her a terrifying nightmare.
A 19 year old teen in Sudan named Noura Hussein was sentenced to death over a week ago because she stabbed her abusive husband to death as the husband attempted to rape her. The outrage which this bizarre judgment sparked across the world speaks volumes about how the whole justice system in Sudan is flawed when it comes to the rights of girls and women.
Forced marriage and marital rapes are a menace in Sudan, but the attitude of the justice system in the country leaves a lot to be desired. In a country where there is flagrant disregard of the plight of women they are subjected to due to crass, crude and toxic societal norms, the legal age of marriage is only 10 and marital rape is legal. In honest terms, this is simply beyond being absurd.
Noura Hussein has been a victim of this senseless system. As her verdict was being passed down, there was an overwhelming support she received at the court room in Omdurman, Sudan. The judge passed down the insane death sentence, and the deceased husband's family refused an option to pardon her and rejected financial compensation, requesting that she be executed instead.
These circumstances are too difficult for anyone to digest. Noura Hussein was forced to marry at 15, a horrifying reality at such a stage. She managed to flee from home and she sought refuge at her aunt's place for three years. Her father managed to deceive her to return home, and as soon as she returned she was handed to the family of the husband. The horror commenced.
Hussein refused to consummate the illegitimate and senseless marriage, and because of the entitlement of men, she was to live through the worst moments of her life. Her husband's relatives held her down while he raped her. "His brother and two cousins tried to reason with her, when she refused she was slapped and ordered into the room. One held her chest and head, the others held her legs," Dr. Adil Mohamed Al-Imam, one of Hussein's lawyers disclosed.
It is a harrowing and shocking story of abuse, cruelty and senselessness. When the husband tried to rape her a day later, she stabbed him to death. She turned to her family for help, something that was futile as her own family turned her in to the police.
In a proper justice system, the case would have served as an excellent precedent to defy the issue of forced marriages, marital rape and the objectification of women in that they should be passive, docile subservient wives to their abusive, entitled and maniac husbands.
At this stage, her lawyer Dr. Adil Mohamed Al-Imam is now facing intimidation. Sudanese security forces came to his offices just hours before he was due to brief the media on the latest developments in the case, activists said. Everything points to the whole defence team being intimidated into not fully focusing on the case. The lawyers have until May 25 to appeal.
The United Nations office of human rights has now appealed to the Sudanese officials so that Noura Hussein can be granted clemency. "Applying the death penalty to a young girl who was treated so appallingly would be deeply unjust," a spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Wednesday.
"This is an opportunity for the Sudanese authorities to show they do not condone rape in any shape or form, and save the life of a young woman whose existence has already been devastated for reasons largely beyond her control at a very young age."
Here is a young woman who stood for her life, for her rights in the face of unfettered monstrosity. There is no reason why she must not be given the full defence of self-defence. She was under attack, and she had to do what she had to in order to save herself. But to the Sudanese courts probably that's a weak argument, because of the flaws in society.
Header image credit: CNN