Death penalty for victim of child marriage and rape sparks outrage in Sudan and beyond

One in 10 girls in Sudan are married by the age of 15 and a third by 18 (A World at School)

Child marriage, Girls' education, Right to education

The plight of a teenage girl who killed her husband as she was being attacked has raised the issues of early marriage and girls' rights.

The case of a teenage girl who faces the death penalty has turned the spotlight on child marriage, marital rape and female rights in Sudan.

Activists are outraged that Noura Hussein, 19, is facing execution for stabbing her husband as he raped her.

“There are tens and thousands of cases like Noura in our community that no one knows about,” said leading women’s campaigner Amal Habbani. She said Sudanese laws do not consider females as human beings who can take their own decisions.

Noura was 16 when she was forced into a marriage contract by her father – but ran away to stay with a relative for three years. The wedding eventually went ahead near Khartoum and she was raped by her husband as three of his male relatives restrained her.

The next day he tried to rape her again and she stabbed him during a struggle, say reports.

Education Sudan 1

More than half of Sudan’s three million out-of-school children are girls (UNICEF / Noorani)

Noura is believed to have wanted to finish her education and train to be a teacher.

Sudanese law allows children above 10 to be married with a judge’s permission. One in three girls are married before they turn 18 and more than one in 10 by the age of 15.

Child marriage can disrupt girls’ education and puts them at risk domestic violence and abuse, as well as health complications, death in childbirth and infant mortality.

As many as three million children are out of school in Sudan – more than half of them girls.

The case of Noura Hussein has attracted international attention, with the hashtag #JusticeForNoura trending. 

The UN Women, UN Population Fund and UN Office of the Special Advisor on Africa made a joint appeal to the Sudanese government for clemency.

“Reports indicate that she was forced against her will into marriage at the age of 16,” said a joint statement. “She was raped by her husband while his three male relatives held her down.

“Speaking as the voices of women and girls of the world, we plead with the government of Sudan to save the life of Hussein.”

Noura’s lawyer, Adil Mohamed al-Emam, told AFP news agency: “In our arguments we raised the issue that it was a forced marriage and that she was raped. The court discussed it but did not recognise that she was raped.”

Amnesty International said: “The courts are saying Noura is guilty of premeditated murder – even though she was defending herself from being raped by a man she was forced to marry when she was just a young teenager.”

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