- "Sudan's laws governing rape expose rape victims to further abuse, shield perpetrators from prosecution, limit the ability for survivors to receive medical services and generally deny any access to justice," according to a new analysis.
The Washington-based organisation Refugees International today has released a report - "Laws Without Justice: An assessment of Sudanese laws affecting survivors of rape" - looking into the Sudanese legislation. The analysis came to shocking conclusions on how rape victims in Sudan are denied justice, especially in war-ravaged Darfur.
The report examines Sudan's laws on rape and makes a series of recommendations on how they can be revised. The report also encourages international support of Sudanese civil society organisations and opposition members of Parliament who are calling for changes to these laws.
"Much has been written about the scale of rape in Darfur," says Adrienne Fricke, one of the authors. "But unless we understand the legal mechanisms that are creating and reinforcing the problem, it will be impossible to bring justice to the victims or reduce the incidence of rape. Denying justice to these women only compounds the terrible physical and psychological trauma of rape."
Rape of Darfuri women on a mass scale is one of the hallmarks of the conflict in Darfur. Several analysts claim it is part of a calculated plan to destroy communities and contributes directly to ethnic cleansing. If a woman cannot prove that she did not consent to intercourse, she can be accused of adultery - a crime that carries a sentence of one hundred lashes or even stoning - even if she was raped.
Sudan's laws also grant immunity to members of the military, security services, police and border guards. Many members of the Janjaweed militias that carry out the worst atrocities in Darfur are integrated in the Popular Defence Forces, which is also exempt from prosecution. The Khartoum government also was said to "harass organisations who work with rape victims and doctors who provide medical treatment to raped women."
Many legal and human rights experts in Sudan recognise the need to change these laws. Prominent Sudanese organisations collaborated with the UN and recommended reforms to the government of Sudan, and there is a concept paper being circulated in Parliament that addresses these reform proposals.
"There is nothing inherently Islamic about the way Sudan's rape law is constructed," Ms Fricke continued. "This report provides greater documentation on the implementation of Sudan's laws relating to rape so that the Sudanese people can continue their efforts to change them. Women who have survived sexual violence should not be penalised for seeking justice."
The study resulted from a January meeting between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. During this visit, the officials in Sudan's Ministry of Justice extended an invitation to analyse the government's purported efforts to address sexual violence against Sudanese women.
Refugees International president Ken Bacon, who was in the Richardson delegation, accepted this invitation, and lawyer Ms Fricke and Amira Khair, a Sudanese human rights advocate, met in Khartoum in March to interview people with knowledge about the crisis of rape in Darfur. "After a week, the Sudanese government turned uncooperative and gave 24 hours to leave the country," the organisation however claims.
"Sudanese officials continue to deny that rape is a problem, and Refugees International repeats our call on the US and the international community to implement tougher policies against the government of Sudan - including stricter sanctions - to end the violence and rape in Darfur," Mr Bacon concluded.
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