UN and rights groups lead campaign for 19-year-old given death penalty for stabbing man she was forced to marry as he assaulted her


Sudan urged to pardon teenager facing death for killing husband who raped her

UN and rights groups lead campaign for 19-year-old given death penalty for stabbing man she was forced to marry as he assaulted her.

A Sudanese woman walks past a map of Sudan at a polling station in Khartoum. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images


The UN and international rights groups are calling on Sudan to pardon a 19-year-old woman sentenced to death after she killed her husband as he tried to rape her. 

Noura Hussein, who was compelled by her family to marry when she was 16, is facing death by hanging after a sharia court, which follows Islamic religious laws, found her guilty of premeditated murder for stabbing her husband, who she says had previously raped her with the assistance of his family.

On Thursday, the court sentenced her to death after her husband’s family rejected the alternative of receiving financial compensation.

Hussein’s case has become a cause célèbre in the week since her sentencing after it was highlighted by the Guardian and other media, prompting a worldwide campaign to secure clemency.

Two UN agencies – UN Women and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) – as well as the UN office of the special advisor on Africa on Sunday appealed to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government for clemency for Hussein.

"Reports indicate that she was forced against her will into marriage at the age of 16. She was raped by her husband while his three male relatives held her down," said a joint statement.

"Speaking as the voices of women and girls of the world, we plead with the government of Sudan to save the life of Hussein."

A cange.org.petition has been signed by more than 300,000 people, while Amnesty has also launched a letter-writing campaign on the teenager’s behalf.

"The courts are saying Noura is guilty of premeditated murder – even though she was defending herself from being raped by a man she was forced to marry when she was just a young teenager," the organisation said in a statement. 

Hussein said her father made her contractually marry her cousin when she was 16, but she refused to accept the marriage and sought refuge with a relative for three years.

She returned to her family home on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, in April after her father said the marriage was cancelled, but found that she had been duped and preparations for her wedding ceremony were under way.

Hussein said she refused to have sex with her husband after the ceremony, but on the sixth day, he raped her as three of his male relatives restrained her.

The following day, he attempted to rape her again and as she struggled to stop him, she stabbed him.

Campaigners said Hussein sought help from her family, but fearing reprisals from her dead husband’s relatives, her father handed her over to the police.

Hussein’s lawyers said they have until 25 May to appeal against the court’s decision.

Sudan is ranked 165 out of 188 countries on the UN's Gender Inequality Index, 

which measures women’s access to health, education and employment and their political participation compared with men. 

UN Women says violence against women and girls is prevalent in Sudan.

About one in the three girls are married in Sudan before they are 18 and marital rape is not considered a crime in te predominantly Muslim African nation.