Khartoum — A pregnant 18-year old Ethiopian woman reportedly raped by seven Sudanese men in Omdurman city in August 2013 has been found guilty of committing 'indecent acts'. The court accused the men of adultery and indecent acts, and sentenced them to lashes and fines on Sunday.
The Ethiopian woman, about two months pregnant at that time, was lured to an empty property while she was house hunting. Once there she was attacked by seven men and gang raped. The incident was filmed by the perpetrators as a joke, and then spread via social media. As a result, the police seized six of the perpetrators on 15 January this year. The woman was detained too under Articles 153 and 154 of Sudan's criminal code: distributing indecent material, and indecent behaviour.
Fresh charges against the six men and the victim followed after the court case started on 6 February, under Articles 151 referring to scandalous acts, 154 relating to prostitution, and 146 which refers to adultery.
'She insisted to be raped'
The accused woman, now nine months pregnant, told the court on Sunday that she was married and two months pregnant when the rape occurred. "But I was separated from my husband for some time." This fact made it possible for her to dodge the possible sentence of death by stoning, which can only be levelled against a married person accused of adultery.
One of the perpetrators told the court that in the day of the incident, he and the others had tried to help the woman find a rental house. When they passed by one of their own houses, which was for rent, the mother of another accused man "did not agree with the girl". Heading on to the market, the accused "asked to have sex with her and she agreed, but asked 50 SDG ($8,70). I granted her 20 Sudanese pounds, but the girl denied, saying she was satisfied having sex with the young men. She insisted to be raped by us".
Sentenced for indecent acts
The court then sentenced the woman to one month in prison, which has been suspended, and a fine of 5,000 SDG ($961). She had already been detained in a police station since her arrest on 17 January. Sudanese volunteer lawyers and the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (Siha) had appealed to the police to release the victim, but they refused to do so.
Siha released a statement today saying the victim, an Ethiopian migrant, has now further been threatened by the court with Article 30-A of the passports and immigration law and faces a jail sentence for illegally entering Sudan.
"Three of the accused men were convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes each. Two others were convicted of indecent acts and sentenced to 40 lashes, one with an added 3,000SDG ($577) fine and the other with an added 2,000SDG ($385) fine. One man was convicted of distributing indecent material and sentenced to 40 lashes and a fine of 10,000 SDG ($1,923). The seventh man involved was set free owing to insufficient evidence against him. Those subject to lashings had their sentences carried out immediately afterwards in a closed court setting."
Siha further said that it is of note that the Attorney General, following the woman's arrest, had since blocked the woman from filing a complaint of rape. "But there is no legal guidance on whether a person under a criminal investigation can raise criminal complaints.
"This verdict reflects the substantial challenges in enabling victims of sexual violence to pursue justice", Hala Elkarib, SIHA Network's Regional Director, condemned the case. "The levelling of immigration charges against the victim further denies her protection by the state."