Sudan criminalizes female genital mutilation

Sudan’s sovereign council, the highest authority in the country, on Friday ratified a law criminalizing female genital mutilation. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Sudan criminalizes female genital mutilation

  • Nearly nine out of 10 girls in Sudan fall victim to what is known as FGM or genital cutting
  • The justice ministry said the practice “undermines the dignity of women”

KHARTOUM: Sudan's highest governing body Friday ratified a law criminalising female genital mutilation, a widespread ritual in the African country, the justice ministry announced.
The sovereign council, comprising military and civilian figures, approved a series of laws including criminalisation of the age-old practice known as FGM or genital cutting that "undermines the dignity of women", the ministry said in a statement.
The reform comes a year after longtime president Omar Al-Bashir was toppled following months of mass pro-reform protests on the streets in which women played a key role.
Sudan's cabinet in April approved amendments to the criminal code that would punish those who perform FGM.
"The mutilation of a woman's genital organs is now considered a crime," the justice ministry said, punishable by up to three years in prison.
It said doctors or health workers who carry out genital cutting would be penalised, and hospitals, clinics or other places where the operation was carried out would be shut.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hailed Friday's decision.
"It is an important step on the way to judicial reform and in order to achieve the slogan of the revolution - freedom, peace and justice," he tweeted.
The premier vowed that Sudan's new authorities would "forge ahead and review laws and make amendments to rectify flaws in the legal system".
Nearly nine out of 10 girls in Sudan fall victim to FGM, according to the United Nations.
In its most brutal form, it involves the removal of the labia and clitoris, often in unsanitary conditions and without anaesthesia.
The wound is then sewn shut, often causing cysts and infections and leaving women to suffer severe pain during sex and childbirth complications later in life.
Rights groups have for years decried as barbaric the practice, which can lead to myriad physical, psychological and sexual complications and, in the most tragic cases, death.
The watershed move is part of reforms that have come since Bashir's ouster.
"It is a very important step for Sudanese women and shows that we have come a long way," women's rights activist Zeinab Badreddin said in May.
The United Nations Children's Fund has also welcomed the move.
"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 UNICEF Representative in Khartoum.
The UN says FGM is widespread in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, affecting the lives of millions of girls and women.
In Sudan, rights campaigners say the custom has over the past three decades spread to remote regions where it was previously not practised, including Sudan's Nuba mountains.
In neighbouring Egypt, as in several other countries, genital cutting is now prohibited. A 2008 law punishes it with up to seven years in prison.
Sudan's anti-FGM advocates came close to a ban in 2015 when a bill was discussed in parliament but then shot down by Bashir who caved in to pressure from some Islamic clerics.
Yet many religious leaders have spoken out against genital cutting over the years.


Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area

Updated 15 January 2021

Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area

  • Moving Israel under the Central Command potentially makes security cooperation with the US on regional matters easier
  • The move could bring Israeli military officials in closer proximity to those of Gulf neighbors

WASHINGTON: The US Defense Department announced Friday that it would include close ally Israel in the area covered by its Middle East-focused Central Command.
In another sign of the rapprochement brokered by President Donald Trump between Israel and Arab countries, the Pentagon said US military dealings with Israel would no longer be handled by its European Command.
“We structure boundaries to best mitigate risk and protect US interests and partners,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East.”
That was mainly a reference to Iran, which the United States, Israel and Arab countries view as the leading security threat to the region.
For decades at odds with its Arab neighbors over its treatment of Palestinians, Israel has over the past year broken barriers on open cooperation and communications with Gulf countries under the Trump-fostered Abraham Accords.
Moving it under the Central Command potentially makes security cooperation with the United States on regional matters easier, and could bring Israeli military officials in closer proximity to those of Gulf neighbors.
But it could also complicate CentCom cooperation with Iran allies like Iraq, where the US retains 2,500 troops.
“Israel is a leading strategic partner for the United States, and this will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our US Central Command partners, while maintaining strong cooperation between Israel and our European allies,” the Pentagon said.