The legislation makes major strides in pushing back against discrimination faced by women and minorities during the 30-year rule of Omar al-Bashir that came to an end in 2019, according to equality advocates.
The anti-torture charity Redress and the Sudan-based African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said the measures “move Sudan a step closer towards eliminating structural violence against women and minorities”.
“We encourage the new government to continue making domestic law and policy reforms until systematic torture is eradicated from the country and justice and reparations are fully realised for victims,” said Charlie Loudon, Redress’s international legal adviser.
Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari announced last week that apostasy, which had been used against religious minorities and was punishable by death, would no longer be an offence. In addition, he said, non-Muslims will be allowed to drink alcohol in private.
Abdulbari called the reforms “a big stride towards establishing one of the foundations for the victorious December revolution’s slogans, which is freedom”.
Sudan’s infamous apostasy laws were highlighted by the case of Meriam Ibrahim, who was raised by a Christian mother, but sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for abandoning Islam, the faith of her father. Ibrahim was freed in 2018 after an international outcry.
The reforms follow the abolition in late 2019 of the notorious Public Order Act. Article 152 of the law included the punishment of 40 lashes for women who wore trousers in public.
“How many women were abused by these unjust and humiliating laws … thank you, our glorious revolution,” wrote Ihsan Fagiri, the head of the No to Oppression Against Women Initiative.
Fagiri had previously claimed that 45,000 women were prosecuted under the Public Order Act in 2016 alone.
Ola Diab, the editor of the online Sudanese cultural magazine 500 Words, said the reforms were “great first steps”.
“The issue here is implementation of these laws. I think that’s where the challenge will be and where we’ll see if these laws will really bring serious change,” said Diab, noting that she expected social resistance to reforms such as the ban on FGM.
She added that many other laws needed to change, including those that have seen victims of rape prosecuted on adultery charges and women in mixed-sex settings accused of prostitution.
Loudon said Sudan must ensure steps are taken to enforce the legal changes.
“That would be things like amending the internal policies of the relevant government agencies, whether the police, the general intelligence services or the armed forces.
“The other thing that would be crucial would be training being put in place,” he said.