Sudan moves to criminalize female genital mutilation

An aerial view shows the Nile river cutting through the Sudanese capital Khartoum. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2020

Sudan moves to criminalize female genital mutilation

  • Under the proposed amendment to the criminal code, anyone found guilty of performing the procedure would be sentenced to up to three years in prison
  • The law must still be ratified by a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the sovereign council

CAIRO: Sudanese officials said Saturday they are working to criminalize the widespread practice of female genital mutilation after the transitional government approved a landmark draft law.
Under the proposed amendment to the criminal code, anyone found guilty of performing the procedure would be sentenced to up to three years in prison, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.
The law must still be ratified by a joint meeting of the Cabinet and the sovereign council, which assumed power after last year’s overthrow of longtime President Omar Al-Bashir.
Female genital mutilation is a deeply-rooted practice in Sudan and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where it is traditionally seen as a way of curbing female sexual desire in order to reinforce conservative behavior.
A 2014 report by the UN children’s agency estimated that 87% of Sudanese women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the procedure. Most undergo an extreme form known as infibulation, which involves the removal and repositioning of the labia to narrow the vaginal opening.
The government’s proposal is part of a set of sweeping amendments that would abolish the death penalty for people under the age of 18 and prevent pregnant women from being imprisoned for minor crimes.
Dalia Al-Roubi, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said the government hopes to convene a meeting with the sovereign council soon to ratify the law. Rajaa Nicola, a member of the sovereign council, said it has yet to be scheduled.
The proposed law has been brought forward by the country’s interim government, which includes four female ministers. If passed it would be an achievement for the technocratic leaders who are trying to steer Sudan toward democratic and economic reforms.
However, rights groups warn that the practice remains deeply entrenched in the conservative society and that enforcement could face obstacles. Female genital mutilation has survived in other countries that have criminalized it.
It’s also unclear whether the country’s military leaders, who make up a majority of the sovereign council, will approve the law, which could spark a backlash by powerful Islamist groups that backed Al-Bashir.
“It’s a great victory for Sudanese women,” said Nahid Gabrellah, director of the Seema center for women’s rights, adding that more efforts were needed to raise awareness.
The UN children’s agency also welcomed the efforts to outlaw the practice.
“This practice is not only a violation of every girl child’s rights, it is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health,” said Abdullah Fadil, the agency’s representative in Sudan.
“We need to work very hard with the communities to help enforce this law,” he said. “The intention is not to criminalize parents.”

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Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

Updated 24 September 2020

Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

  • Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported
  • The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss".
Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
"We reached a decision to pull the handbrake," Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Israel Radio about the cabinet decision, without giving precise details of the restrictions.
Israel Radio and several Israeli news sites said the revised edicts, due to take effect on Friday pending parliamentary ratification, will allow fewer businesses to operate, and only in "essential" sectors such as finance, energy, health, technology, agriculture and food sales and production.
The current 1,000-metre (0.6-mile)- limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests, the news reports said.
The revised edict was likely to put a damper on demonstrations outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence, where protesters, many of them from outside the city, have been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption.
He has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January, and rejected allegations from protest activists that a tougher lockdown was essentially aimed at quashing the demonstrations against him.
"In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss," Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.
Schools will remain closed, but the cabinet decided against shuttering synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, next week, media reported. The number of worshippers, however, will be limited.
Infection rates in close-quarter ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods and towns in Israel have been high, but religious parties in the coalition government had opposed shuttering synagogues.
Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.
The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.