Sudan Allows Alcohol for Non-Muslims, Decriminalizes Apostasy

In a reversal of four decades of hardline Islamist policies, Sudan is to scrap laws that had made leaving Islam potentially punishable by death, allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol and ban female genital mutilation.

Sudan will allow non-Muslims to consume alcohol and has scrapped laws that had made apostasy potentially punishable by death, the country's Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

The changes come a year after Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled following mass protests against his three-decade rule.

Sudan now "allows non-Muslims to consume alcohol on the condition it doesn't disturb the peace and they don't do so in public," Abdulbari said in an interview Saturday evening on state television.

Alcoholic drinks have been banned in the country since former President Jaafar Nimeiri introduced Islamic law in 1983, throwing bottles of whisky into the Nile in the capital Khartoum. While Islamic tradition forbids the faithful from drinking, Muslim-majority Sudan has a significant Christian minority.

A string of reforms

The minister also said that Sudan will decriminalize apostasy and ban female genital mutilation, a practice which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women. According to a 2014 report by the UNICEF, Sudan's FGM prevalence rate is 86.6%.

Furthermore, women will no longer need a permit from male members of their families to travel with their children.

"No one has the right to accuse any person or group of being an infidel... this threatens the safety and security of society and leads to revenge killings," said Abdulbari, who is part of a transitional government that took power after Bashir's ouster. The transitional administration, installed under a deal between protest leaders and military generals, has so far pursued a string of reforms.

A constitution adopted for the three-year transition period omits mention of Islam as a defining characteristic of the state.

Earlier this month, the transitional government had promised major reforms, after thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding greater civilian rule.

(Reuters, AFP)

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