On Thursday 10 May, Noura Hussein, a 19-year old victim of child marriage was condemned to death in Sudan for stabbing her husband after he raped her.
Munier Mohammed, Plan International’s Country Director in Sudan, said this case plainly illustrates why child marriage should be banned in Sudan:
“This tragic situation should never have happened,” he said. “This young woman clearly acted in self-defence after having been a victim of child marriage that was clearly forced, and subsequently, rape.”
“Early, child and forced marriage and rape are violations of girls' and women's universal human rights to have control over their lives and bodies and live free from violence – rights that were clearly denied in this case.”
Tricked into returning to forced marriage
Noura Hussein was married to her husband from the age of 16 when she was still a child. She tried running away to stop the marriage from going ahead and lived with an aunt for three years, but at 19 was tricked into returning home by her family, who then handed her over to her husband’s family.
When she would not have sex with the man after several days of living together, he forced her to have sex against her will.
When he tried to do this again the next day, she stabbed him. After being handed in to police by her family, she was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to death.
Marital rape is still rape
Mr Mohammed said: “Forcing someone to have sex against their will undeniably constitutes rape, regardless of whether the couple is married.
“We urge that the rights of this young woman be respected and that it be recognised that she was a victim of severe sexual violence and is deserving of care, support and protection.
“At Plan International, we recognise that the root causes of child, early and forced marriage and gender-based violence are discriminatory social norms and unequal power dynamics between men and women. It’s crucial that we change these deep-rooted attitudes that excuse violence against girls and women – including child marriage and rape within marriage.”
Sadly, child marriage is common in Sudan: approximately 1 in 3 girls in Sudan are married before their 18th birthday. The Personal Status Law of Muslims, 1991, allows the marriage of a girl once she has hit puberty and marital rape is not considered a crime.
We condemn all violence against girls and women
Plan International strongly condemns all violence against girls and women, including the practice of child, early and forced marriage and marital rape. We encourage the Sudanese government to review the Child Act 2010, the Personal Status Law of Muslims and other laws to make it illegal for any child under the age of 18 to get married, regardless of any provisions concerning parental or judicial consent.
The government and other actors should also urgently put in place protective measures for victims of sexual violence, including the provision of safe houses, access to emergency contraception, and psychosocial support.
Ms Hussein’s lawyers have until 25 May to appeal against her death sentence.