STATEMENT - Sudan: Brutal Gang Rape of a Young Pregnant Ethiopian Woman
Public Statement by the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA)
22nd January 2014
In August 2013, soon after Eid Al Fatah, a young Ethiopian woman was lured to an empty property where she was pinned down and brutally gang raped by a group of seven men. The rape was filmed by one of the participants and then circulated through online social media months later. Since the film became publically available, six of the perpetrators have been arrested by police (on the 15th Jan) as well as the young woman in question (on the 17th Jan). One of the perpetrators, notably the individual that lured the victim, is still unaccounted for despite attempts by police to find him.
The case is still in the first process of investigation for which it is understood that both perpetrators and victim are being investigated under Articles 153 and 154 of the criminal code, referring to the making and distribution of indecent material and indecent behaviour. Despite a request for bail, the Prosecutor General’s office has denied bail, however have agreed to transfer her to a medical facility in light of her being now nine months pregnant- this however is yet to take place and the woman is currently still in a police detention cell with no mattress or facilities.
A lawyer, working on behalf of the victim has visited her in prison to ascertain the facts. The victim, an 18 year old married Ethiopia woman, was approximately three months pregnant at the time of the incident. The woman was seeking new accommodation and this was used as a pretext by the perpetrator to lure her to the empty property. It was there that she was attacked. The video of the event, seen by SIHA staff, clearly shows that the woman was pinned down against her will whilst the men took turns in violating her. She was further threatened with more violence if she was to report the case, and out of fear for her own and her child’s safety she stayed silent.
The case raises serious concerns over the way survivors of rape are treated by police. At no point should a victim of such a brutal gang rape be arrested and detained within a police station and accused of a crime when she herself was a victim of violence. Such an investigation into the victim serves only to diffuse culpability away from the perpetrators.
Similarly, the public reaction, which has in turn attempted to present the woman, without any factual basis, as a prostitute, as having HIV or being a willing participant, serve as attempts to delegitimise the victim, to present her as a woman unworthy of support and empathy and ostensibly justice. The speed with which the general public and media have been willing to condemn the female victim as opposed to denounce the perpetrators reflects the deep-seated prejudices and assumptions that culpability for sexual violence lies with a woman and her behaviour, whilst ignoring the active and violent role that the men have played. Certainly, that some media outlets are attempting to claim that the men had taken hallucinogenic drugs inadvertently prescribed by a pharmacist, is a deeply cynical attempt at mitigating culpability of the perpetrators.
In turn this case further raises the racial prejudices that exist towards Ethiopian migrants, with her publically and falsely portrayed as being HIV positive whilst medical tests demonstrate that this is not the case.
To endure such violence for the woman is cruel enough, but for her humiliation and violation to have been recorded and distributed for public consumption further exacerbates this and her arrest serves as another layer of victimisation of a woman who has already been harmed both physically and psychologically.
SIHA demands the immediate release of the woman and a full investigation into the perpetrators instigated such that they are brought to justice for committing rape and sexual violence. No person, irrespective of status in society should be above or exempt from the law. And no person, irrespective of status or background should be denied justice on this basis.Both in line with Sudan’s obligations to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, this woman is entitled to protection which the Sudanese government should assert.
Click here for SIHA's update on this case from February 14th 2014