Sudan plans death penalty and flogging as punishment for same-sex relationships

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Sudan has lifted the death penalty and flogging as punishment for same-sex sex after nearly four decades of radical Islamist rule.

Although “offenders” still face life imprisonment for their “crime”, with sentences starting at five years, many conservative Sudanese have been outraged by the reforms and have taken to the streets to protest.

The transitional government announced a series of reforms over the weekend, including the removal of sanctions for apostasy, the authorization of alcohol consumption, the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) and the lifting restrictions on women’s clothing.

The new government has pledged to lead the country to democracy after last year’s overthrow of the Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who has reigned since 1989.

Protesters march with banners to support the maintenance of Islamic sharia as part of the draft constitution during a demonstration along al-Siteen street (sixty) in the eastern Khartoum district of the Sudanese capital on July 17 2020

“These amendments are still not enough, but they are a great first step for the transitional government trying to implement changes,” said Thursday Noor Sultan, founder of Bedayaa, an LGBT + group in Egypt and Sudan. .

“We see this as a positive change on the path to reform. “

Same-sex relationships are criminalized in most countries in Africa and the Middle East. Sudan was one of six countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, to have imposed the death penalty for same-sex relationships, according to the LGBT + rights group ILGA.

Under Sudan’s old sodomy law, gay men were beaten 100 times for the first offense, five years in prison for the second, and the death penalty for the third time. Sentences were reduced to prison terms ranging from five years to life.

The legal amendment was part of several reforms announced by the justice minister on Saturday, including plans to decriminalize apostasy – the abandonment of a religion – and to allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol.

Sudan will also ban female genital mutilation, which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women, and allow women to travel with their children without the permission of a male relative, he said. -he declares.

Sultan said the government was discreet about dropping the death penalty for homosexual sex and that its amendment document did not detail the subject of section 148 – the law on sodomy.

Protesters chant slogans to support the maintenance of Islamic sharia as part of the draft constitution as they parade during a demonstration along rue al-Siteen (sixty) in the eastern Khartoum district of the capital of Sudan July 17, 2020

Protesters chant slogans to support the maintenance of Islamic sharia as part of the draft constitution as they parade during a demonstration along rue al-Siteen (sixty) in the eastern Khartoum district of the capital of Sudan July 17, 2020

“I think society is still reluctant to accept such changes, but I hope the government will continue on its path to reform,” she said.

Others have criticized the justice ministry’s reform program.

“Kudos to the immoral people who have met their erroneous demands regarding female genital mutilation, legitimizing sodomy, drinking alcohol, and opening bars and nightclubs,” a Twitter user said with the username @ marwanbsas1980.

Fabo Elbaradei, an LGBT + activist based in the capital Khartoum, welcomed the surprise decision to lift the death penalty, but said it would not change the lives of gay people in Sudan much.

“We are subject to social discrimination and we risk jail time … for just being who we are,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in comments by email.

“We are still deprived (of) our right to live like any other member of society.”

Government officials did not respond to requests for comment.

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