Sudan’s ruling body, its eleven-member Sovereign Council, has ratified a law criminalising the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the new law, anyone who is found guilty of mutilating a woman’s genital organs can face up to three years in prison, AFP reported.
This comes after the African nation’s transitional government — headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok — approved an amendment to its criminal legislation earlier this year, which banned the age-old cultural tradition of FGM.
The Sudanese Prime Minister took to Twitter soon after the justice ministry’s official announcement, to hail the landmark judgement. “It is an important step on the way to judicial reform and in order to achieve the slogan of the revolution – freedom, peace and justice,” he tweeted.
According to a survey conducted by the United Nations in 2014, an estimated 87 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been victims of FGM. The gruesome procedure, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, involves the partial or complete removal of a woman’s external genitalia.
In a series of sweeping amendments passed on Friday, the sovereign council also overturned several other discriminatory laws, AFP reported. One such amendment now permits women to travel outside the country with their children without their spouse’s permission.
Following the forced removal of the country’s long time ruler Omar al-Bashir last year, the Hamdok-led transitional government has been able to revoke religious laws, which laid down a dress code for women and also prohibited them from drinking alcohol.
While most cases of FGM are reported in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it is also prevalent in some Asian and Latin American countries. According to UN data, there are 4.1 million girls around the world who are at risk of undergoing FGM.