Mon, 10 Aug 2020

Sudanese Women Welcome Freedom to TravelAbroadwith Children

Voice of America
15 Jul 2020, 04:05 GMT+10

KHARTOUM - Sudan's transitional government amended a law last week to allow women to travel abroad with their children without the father's permission - a move welcomed by women's rights groups.

Thirty-year-old divorced mother Manya Hamid recalls how her ex-husband continued to torment her using Sudan's laws even after their marriage ended.

In 2015, she wanted to take her one-year-old daughter to meet her grandfather, who was living in the United States, and dying of cancer. But under Sudan's Muslim Personal Law Act of 1991, only the father could decide if his child was allowed to travel abroad, even if he was a former husband.

Hamid's former husband would not allow it and, fearing that he might disappear with the child. She stayed in Sudan.

Her father died in 2017.

But last week, Sudan's transitional government amended several laws on personal freedom, allowing women to travel abroad with their children without the father's permission.

Hamid says when she heard the new amendments regarding the personal law act, she cried a lot, remembering all of her divorce. She congratulates all Sudanese mothers who suffered and couldn't travel freely.

Under the 1991 law, women in Sudan also required the consent of their husband or a male guardian to travel outside the country.

Rights groups welcomed the changes and noted the conflict with Sudan's constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and says women should be treated equally under the law.

Women's rights activist Shahinaz Jamal says the amendment was long overdue.

She says the legal change is a step forward and a result of great efforts and struggles by all Sudanese women. They need more achievements to be fulfilled, says Jamal, but also welcome this step and see it as a big victory.

Legal expert Mohamed Makki says the amendments are a welcome change after decades of abuse under the laws during the rule of ousted former president Omar al-Bashir.

He says amending the personal law act is definitely a victory for the majority of Sudanese people who suffered legally under the former regime. But he notes lawyers like himself hope to see civilian authorities like the legislative council making the legal changes, as they represent the Sudanese people.

Sudan's justice minister announced the legal changes Saturday.

They included criminalizing female genital mutilation, decriminalizing drinking alcohol for non-Muslims, and removing the death penalty for Muslims who convert.

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