The Government of Sudan has taken the first steps to ban the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) in all parts of the country. In a country where, according to the United Nations, nine out of ten women ages 15 to 49 have been subjected to FGM/C, anyone who performs the procedure will face a possible three-year prison term and a fine under the new law.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Sudan’s move a human rights victory:
“It’s a big step, a bright step closer to a future in which all women and girls worldwide won’t have to suffer this barbaric practice.”
Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government announced its intention to criminalize FGM/C in April. The transitional government was established last summer following a popular uprising and the ouster and arrest of Sudan’s long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir.
In the months since the transitional government took power under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, several promising developments have taken place. Among them are the appointment of women to key leadership positions; a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protesters; and a commitment to holding democratic elections.
Additionally, a new report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal commission that makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress, commended the transitional government for making “important progress to improve religious freedom conditions” in Sudan. According to USCIRF, under the Islamist-led rule of al-Bashir, Sudan was notorious for its egregious repression of members of religious minority groups. Due to positive actions taken by the transitional government, USCIRF upgraded Sudan to their “Special Watch List” designation during their annual report release in May.
Sudan and the United States are currently working to build a stronger bilateral partnership. The two have decided to pursue the exchange of ambassadors for the first time in decades. As the United States and Sudan continue to develop policy and statutory criteria for rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, Sudan is taking steps to address longstanding issues of bilateral concern.
Over the past year, Sudan has started to emerge from the decades-long grip of brutal totalitarian rule. Despite the country’s continuing challenges, recent positive developments bode well for the Sudanese people and for the possibility of new partnership between Sudan and the United States.