Enemies of the State: Curbing Women Activists Advocating Rape Reform in Sudan

By Tonnessen, Liv | Journal of International Women's Studies, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Enemies of the State: Curbing Women Activists Advocating Rape Reform in Sudan


Tonnessen, Liv, Journal of International Women's Studies


Introduction (2)

Sudanese women activists launched a legal campaign in 2009, calling attention to how the country's Sharia-based Criminal Act of 1991 produced impunity for rape in the Darfur conflict in which the use of sexual violence as a war tactic has been widespread (see, for example, International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur 2004; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2005). Through the proxy of local Arab militias, known as Janjaweed or devils on horseback, the Sudanese regime has sexually attacked women and children from the African ethnic groups in Darfur since the eruption of the conflict in 2003 (ICC 2009). According to Sudanese women activists, the Criminal Act of the current Islamist regime does not clearly differentiate between rape and the crime of zina, that is sexual intercourse outside of a valid marriage contract; a moral crime prescribed in Islamic legal texts. Since rape is categorized as zina without consent, rape victims risk being prosecuted for zina; a crime punishable by stoning to death for married offenders and 100 lashes for unmarried offenders. This constitutes a serious legal obstacle for rape victims in Darfur and beyond.

After years of women's legal mobilization, Sudan followed a range of African countries by enacting a rape reform in February 2015. The regime introduced a reform in which a new definition of rape appears clearly de-linked from zina. It came as a surprise to many observers, but has nonetheless been celebrated as a great achievement. While on the surface a success story, I understand this largely regime-controlled rape reform as an authoritarian state's struggle to keep an emerging independent women's movement under control, rather than protection of rape victims in Darfur and beyond. By situating the reform within the broader political dynamics of the International Criminal Courts' (ICC) arrest order against Sudan's sitting president for widespread and systematic rape of women and children in Darfur (ICC 2009), it becomes clear that this pushed Omar al-Bashir to severely clamp down on independent women's groups advocating rape reform. The 2015 reform materialized within a political environment of escalated state repression initiated against both international and national NGOs. Al-Bashir's immediate response to the ICC indictment was to expel 13 international and shut down three Sudanese NGOs. (3) Sexual violence became particularly politicized post-ICC and women's groups and NGOs working on rape reform were hit particularly hard. Not only did the reform process exclude women activists who initiated the campaign, but they were also framed as collaborators of the ICC and branded enemies of the state.

The Islamist regime's targeting of an emerging independent women's movement has both short--and long-term implications. The short-term implication is that the regime has silenced the voices pointing to the several limitations of the 2015 rape reform as well as those actors most likely to watchdog its implementation. The long-term implication is that the suppression of an independent women's movement weakens what the literature (see, for example, Htun and Weldon 2012; Tripp et al 2009) identifies as critical for generating further policy change on violence against women.

Fieldwork for this study was conducted in Khartoum, Sudan in May 2011, October 2012 and February/March, June/July, and November 2013 and October 2014. In total, 40 interviews were conducted in English and Arabic. The interviewees include international NGOs and UN agencies, representatives from political parties (both Islamist and from the opposition), and civil society organizations (both national and from Darfur), including two of the national NGOs that were expelled from Darfur in 2009 and women's groups, which have recently been shut down. I interviewed women activists based in Khartoum as well as in Darfur who were working as journalists, university employees, humanitarian workers, and politicians, members of NGOs, and lawyers who were working specifically with rape cases in Sudanese courts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Enemies of the State: Curbing Women Activists Advocating Rape Reform in Sudan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.