Time for Change: Reforming Sudan’s Legislation on Rape and Sexual Violence

This Position Paper is published by REDRESS and KCHRED as part of the Criminal Law Reform Project in Sudan. It has been prepared in response to a number of well documented challenges in respect of how allegations of rape and other forms of sexual violence are handled in Sudan. These challenges include the absence of appropriate and effective mechanisms to protect victims and witnesses in rape and sexual violence cases and the failure of the competent authorities to carry out effective investigations and prosecutions into allegations of such crimes. These shortcomings stem in part from deficiencies in the definition of the criminal offence of rape and overly narrow evidentiary rules applicable in such cases.

The Paper seeks to contribute to the ongoing debate on the reform of Sudan’s legislation on rape and sexual violence. To this end, it proposes specific changes to Sudan’s legislation so as to bring it in line with the Bill of Rights in the Interim National Constitution, international human rights standards and best practices from around the world. This approach is designed to ensure compliance with constitutional and international law requirements and to enhance the technical quality of the law. The Paper examines the case for reforms, taking into consideration the state of the current debate and measures taken so far. It provides an overview of the prohibition of rape under international law and the rights and obligations flowing from that prohibition. These standards, together with the Bill of Rights and best practices from countries worldwide are used as a guide to examine current Sudanese legislation on rape and sexual violence and to develop specific reform proposals. The Paper examines the substance of the criminal offence of rape, the prosecution of such offences and the position of victims. A set of recommendations are provided, based on a detailed analysis of applicable standards and legislative reforms in key countries.