By Randa Darwish
*Update June 27, 2018: Sudanese authorities have repealed Noura Hussein's death penalty, thanks to campaigns by human rights activists efforts in putting pressure to save Noura. Instead, she will face five years of jail and have to pay financial compensation in order to be released.
The story of Noura started when she was only 16 years old when she was forced into marriage. Her father and the husband signed the marriage contract when Noura finished high school in 2017, she moved to her husband’s home.
According to Amnesty International, Noura’s husband raped her for the first time by the help of his two brothers and male cousins. The next morning, he tried to rape her again, however, she managed to escape into the kitchen, grab a knife and stab him to death. The story doesn't stop here. As Noura went to her family to explain what happened, her father turned her in to the police and her family disowned her.
The court accused Noura of intentional murder, with no allowance given to the fact she was defending herself from being raped by a man she was forced to marry when she was young. Her lawyers said the court gave them until May 25, 2017 to appeal.
A joint statement from UN Women, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Office of the Special Advisor on Africa called on the Sudanese authorities to pardon Noura as reports indicate “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.”
Noura’s case became widely known in Sudan, shedding light on the issues of forced marriage, marriage of minors and marital rape in Sudan and the Middle East.
As a result several campaigns were launched by international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty and Change.org demanding the Sudanese authorities release Noura.
The hashtag #JusticeForNoura, has been trending since early May as millions of people beside activists and public figures shared Noura’s story, hoping to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the verdict.
British model, actress and singer, Naomi Campbell, posted on Twitter in support of Noura.
Ala Oueslati, an advocate for women rights, tweeted under #JusticeForNoura to remind the world that Noura's case is one of many stories of women bring raped by their husbands around the world.
Yousra Elbagir, a Sudanese journalist also tweeted, citing Muhammad Abdel-Haleem, Professor of Islamic Studies in response to people who attributed the Sudanese court verdict in line with Islam and Sharia law.
ALUCAN, a Sudanese blogger, wrote: “Our country protects the perpetrators and demonizes the victims. It sentences a teenager to death and gives a convicted rapist a presidential pardon.”
“Her [Noura’s] circumstance is a daily occurrence that the open-minded and “enlightened” of us might not approve of, but will put up with because “that’s just an unfortunate part of our culture.”
Noura’s story brings to light Sudan’s failure to tackle the issue of forced marriage, early marriage and marital rape, in addition to other forms of violence and discrimination against women, the UN Human Rights Office said.
“We call on the authorities to fully take into consideration Hussein’s claim of self-defense against the attempt by the man to rape her, after he had reportedly already raped her on a previous occasion with the help of three other people,” Ravina Shamdasani, UN Human Rights Office spokesperson said.
Additionally, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Human Rights Committee have expressed concerns over Noura’s conviction, calling the Sudanese authorities to review their laws and gender-based violence in the country.
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