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UN rights experts warn Sudan to cease threatening women with flogging

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo [official profile] and the chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice [official website] Frances Raday on Wednesday urged [text] the Sudanese government to stop the practice of threatening women with flogging for "honour-related offences." According to Manjoo, the punishment is violative of international law and amounts to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." Women in Sudan [UN country profile] may be subjected to flogging for offenses including premarital sex, dressing "indecently," failing to prove rape or being in the company of a man, among other things. A recent case involves Amira Osman Hamed, a Sudanese civil engineer recently accused of dressing indecently, an offense punishable by up to 40 lashes. These punishments are derived from Article 152 [text, PDF] of Sudan's Penal Code of 1991. Frances Raday stated that the practice violates women's rights to dignity, privacy and equality. The experts have demanded Osman Hamed's release and review by the Sudanese government of its legislation related to flogging. Sudan's flogging practices are promulgated under its partial Sharia law system, and the practices are banned under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights [text, PDF].

Violence against women is currently one of the most prevalent international human rights issues. In many nations, legal systems actively discriminate and promote violence against women. In October the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) [official website] recommended a rule [JURIST report] surrounding the obligations states owe to women during and after conflict. The UN Working Group on violence against women issued [JURIST report] a report in October 2012 calling on governments around the world to repeal discriminatory laws criminalizing adultery. In July 2012 Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged [JURIST report] the Sudanese government to reform its discriminatory laws and abolish both the death penalty and all corporal punishment after a young Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The problem of violence against women is not limited to Muslim nations or third-world countries, and the UN rights council declared [JURIST report] in June 2011 that the US faces continued violence against women. In May 2011 the Council of Europe launched [JURIST report] the first international convention to combat violence against women, in response to a statistic that 15 percent of women worldwide have been victims of sex-related violence.

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