Young woman sentenced to stoning by a local court in Sudan

Published: 19 Jun 2012
By: Hala Alkarib

(Regional Director, Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa)

On April 22 a young woman in Sudan, Intisar Sharif Abdalla, was sentenced to death by stoning,  accused of Zina (adultery). She is married and mother to three small children.

Intisar was accused of having a relationship and getting pregnant by a man who wasn’t her husband. After being reported by her brother, she and her co-accused initially denied the charges. Later the case was reopened by the brother and Intisar confessed to committing adultery. The admission of guilt and judicial sentencing came after sustained beatings by her brother who brought forward the case. There was no legal representation and clarification of the procedures for the accused, and Arabic is not her first language. She was taken to court where Judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo of Ombada General Criminal Court in Omdurman city of greater Khartoum state sentenced her to stoning to death after one court session. Lawyers only gained access to her after the judgement was made. The man co-accused with Intisar was released based on his mere denial of the charges of Zina.

This judgement is ruthless under any Islamic Sharia and Fiqh interpretation. Stoning has never before been applied to a woman for adultery in Sudan despite the country’s fundamentalist religious legal system. It highlights just how fickle the government of Sudan is when it comes to the application of international human rights conventions and legislation that it has voluntarily become party to, such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and the African Charter and its protocol on the rights of women. It demonstrates the difficulty of reconciling Sudan’s current national legal jurisdiction and its regional and international obligations as a member of international and regional communities.

Furthermore, the judgement stands against all the values, traditions and heritage of the Sudanese people. Given the fact that the application of Zina has so far been dormant in Sudan, this case ought to be read within the context of the broader political and cultural dynamics currently at work in Sudan, and in particular in light of the religious discourses from which justification for Zina is derived.

Politically, Intisar’s sentencing is significant. She is originally from South Kordofan, where civil conflict recently erupted in Sudan. Following the independence of South Sudan gender and racial profiling and discrimination is dominating the current political scene in the country. In addition, the fluidity of the Sudan’s current legal system poses a serious threat to thousands of women currently living in the country, enduring and suffering under the violence generated by Sudan’s unjust legal system and its brutal enforcement.

This violence ranges from lashing to long term imprisonments of poor women street vendors, students, and others working in the fringes of society, all of whom are regularly subjected to accusations of prostitution, intention to commit Zina, and indecent dressing. The rationale behind Sudan’s criminal code is based on vague definitions of guilt, yet it very assertively delegates the power of judgment to the enforcers to interpret it as they wish in line with the reactionary political agenda.

Intisar is currently shackled by metal chains and imprisoned in Omdurman women’s prison in Sudan together with her four month old baby, where she is being re-victimised and burdened   again by the complex layers of Sudan’s heavy political baggage and unjust legal system.

Programmes: Responsibility to Protect R2P
Regions: North and Horn of Africa, Sudan
Type: IRRI Blog