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Sudan Passes Sweeping Reform, Partially Advancing Women’s Rights

Sudan announced on Sunday extensive criminal law reform, enacting sweeping and historic changes to centuries-old Muslim customs. According to Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari, the government has approved several amendments, among them repealing the death penalty for apostasy, allowing women the right to drive a car without first attaining a male family member’s written permission, banning public flogging and permitting alcohol consumption by non-Muslims. “We have ensured religious freedom and the equality in citizenship and rule of law,” Abdulbari said in an interview Sunday, promising further reforms in the near future. Perhaps most importantly, the amendments outlaw female genital mutilation, making it punishable by up to three years in prison. Islamic law was first introduced in Sudan in 1983 by then-President Jaafar Nimeiry and extended by his successor, recently overthrown Omar al-Bashir. In 2011, South Sudan, which has a Christian majority, managed to secede from 97%-Muslim Sudan, after over two decades of heavy fighting.