SUDAN

News out of Africa is too often coupled with bad news. Yet there are also occasions to celebrate. As in Sudan! No longer is Sudan defined as an Islamic State. Since Omar al-Bashir was removed as President after months of unrest, the transitional government of Abdalla Hamdok is in an uneasy coalition with the military.

Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari has embarked on a series of reforms in an effort to achieve equality in citizenship and criminal law to ensure religious freedom. In July he introduced amendments to the criminal law. The death penalty for apostasy has been abolished, women no longer need a male family member’s permit to travel with their children. Public flogging is abolished. Non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol as long as the peace is kept.

Great news for women: female genital mutilation often involving girls’ partial or total external genitalia is banned! Anyone practicing it can be punished up to by three years behind bars. Any hospitals and other structures performing this are threatened with closure.

Abdulbari said the reform agenda will continue and cover laws discriminating against women and children. A commission will be established to study the legislation until all human rights violations are abolished.

Islamic law was significant in triggering off a 22 year old war between the Islamic North and Christian south, leading to the 2011 South’s secession.