About Liv Tønnessen

Liv Tønnessen is senior researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute. She has a PhD in political Science from the University of Bergen.

Impunity and the conflation of rape and adultery in Sudan’s Criminal Act

Under Sudan’s Criminal Act (1991), rape is defined as zina (adultery and fornication) without consent. This constitutes a serious legal obstacle for rape victims in the country.

Hudud (singular, hadd, meaning limit, restriction, or prohibition) are regarded as the ordinances of Allah, and they have fixed punishments derived from Islam. Among the offenses for which hudud penalties are prescribed is zina which is defined as sexual intercourse between a man and woman outside a valid marriage contract and must be proved by confession before the court, the testimony of four adult men, and pregnancy if the woman is unmarried. The punishment is stoning to death for married offenders and 100 lashes for unmarried offenders. Continue reading

Complex realities and astute actors: Sudanese women’s activism and UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Sudanese women activists do not use United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 to claim rights. During my eight years of engagement with women’s activist from diverse backgrounds in the country I have hardly heard the resolution mentioned, except in the context of the Darfur conflict. It is understood narrowly by local actors to pertain to protection against gender-based violence, specifically sexual violence. In a Sudanese context, where the sitting president is facing an arrest order from the International Criminal Court for the systematic use of sexual violence in the Darfur conflict, needless to say the resolution is politicised and considered too “sensitive” to be dealt with. Nine years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Africa’s longest running civil war, no national strategy exists in Sudan to implement Resolution 1325, because “there is no political will” to do so.

This post is based on an expert analysis published by the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre.

Women fighting back in the wake of the Arab Spring

Hopes were high that the uprisings that began in 2011 across the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) would bring not just democratization, but greater gender equality. Rather than safeguarding women’s equal rights, these revolutions have so far reinforced patriarchy in many states rocked by the uprisings. But Arab women are fighting back.

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Islamist women in Sudan demanding an end to child marriages

There are rumblings of discontent within the Sudanese state; among those critical voices are Islamist women. They want an end to child marriages. 37% of girls in Sudan were married before they reached 18, showed a 2006 health survey. 12,5% were married before they celebrated their 15th birthday. Islamist women demand a legal reform of the Muslim Family Law.

With the Islamist coup d’etat in 1989, Sudanese women assumed a central place in the Islamic national building project, a project which in some areas opened up new possibilities for women and in others severely restricted them. Women are now in majority at the country’s universities. A 25% gender quota in the national and local legislative assemblies are put in place by this government and in the 2010 elections a woman ran as a candidate for the Presidency for the first time in Sudanese history. Yet, the Islamist takeover also took away important rights. For example, in 1991, the regime codified the Muslim Family Law. The 1991 family law, which regulates women’s rights within marriage, custody, divorce and inheritance, has emerged as a contested piece of legislation; among the debated elements are child marriages. According to the 1991 law, a judge can affirm a marriage for a girl who shows signs of puberty, often interpreted as the age of 10. The 1991 law revoked a judicial circular stating that the legal age of marriage age is18.

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