The government of Sudan has passed a series of reforms that removed the death penalty and whipping as punishment for sodomy. The country’s Sovereign Council approved new laws and amended existing ones, including the country’s infamous sodomy law that outlawed penetrative anal sex for both men and women, according to the Nile Valley region LGBTQ+ rights group Bedayaa. Same-sex sexual relations are still against the law and the new laws increase punishments with up to seven years in prison.
“There was joy and hope,” Noor Sultan, executive director of Bedayaa, tells Out of the local response to the news. “But the political situation is very shaky. There’s always a military coup or the previous regime to create political situation.”
Sultan tells Out the new laws and amendments also eliminate a series of other crimes such as apostasy, the crime of freedom of thought and belief, and the death penalty for adults over the age of 70 and children. The new laws also criminalize the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation.
Sudan is a presidential republic in northeastern African and has been involved in multiple civil wars since gaining its independence in 1956. The country is widely Islamic and their laws often reflect a religious conservatism. Currently, the country is ostensibly ruled by a Sovereignty Council consisting of six civilians, five generals, and chaired by General Abd-al-Fatah Al-Burhan. However, Al-Burnah is the de facto head of the government. The government is supposed to transition to full civilian rule next year following elections.
“Yes, they are civilian, they are progressive, and they want change, but they are not fully in power,” Sultan explains, referring to the civilian opposition taking part in the Sovereign Council. “Sudan is transitioning to a new government, so this is the time to advocate for more change.”
While the changes taking place in Sudan are encouraging, Sultan points out the country has a history of violent coups and repressive regimes. She remains optimistic, but also aware that there is a long way to go for true LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance in the county.
“History is always repeating itself in Sudan,” Noor sadly explains.