Supporting the Justice Sector Response to Gender-Based Violence

 The workshop provided food for thought and reflection by all participants. (Photo credit: UNDP Sudan, 2015)

On 27 May 2015, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, called for a more open and constructive dialogue among all parties to address the causes and consequences of violence against women in Sudan. “The silence and the denials, whether by State authorities or many civil society participants, regarding the subject of violence as experienced by women, is a source of concern,” Ms. Manjoo stressed at the end of her twelve-day official visit to the country.

“Constructive and open dialogues among all stakeholders; unfettered access; and an environment that is conducive to full and frank disclosures and dialogues, without the fear of reprisals; is essential in our common quest to promote and protect all human rights for all,” the expert said.

Realizing the importance of supporting national actors, and the justice sector in particular, in dealing with the issue of gender-based violence, the Unit for Combating Violence against Women and Children, with the support of UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA, conducted a workshop on the recent amendments to the Criminal Act 1991 articles 149 and 151, concerning sexual violence. The workshop was attended by more than 100 participants from the police, across the justice sector, medical professionals, ministry officials and civil society.

The Director of the CVAW Unit, Dr. Attiyaat Mustafa, said in her concluding remarks “We need to amend all relevant laws that affect the protection of women and for that framework to be put into practice”.

Important amendments to Sudanese law

In the amendments in question, the definition of rape was separated from the definition of the crime of adultery and a new definition of the crime of sexual harassment was added. This means that rape and adultery are not to be confused, but rather considered as separate offences. This amendment has been advocated by government and civil society for years and is an important step in developing the legal framework of Sudan to better respond to gender-based violence.

“The recent amendments can be considered a landmark. They clearly reflect the commitment of the government of Sudan to international standards on GBV. It can no longer be said that this is a foreign agenda. It is now part of Sudanese law.” says Surayo Buzurukova, Team Leader of the Rule of Law and Human Rights Unit at UNDP Sudan.

 Panel members from the government and UN agencies listen to recommendations from the participants. (Photo credit: UNDP Sudan, 2015)

The workshop provided a valuable forum for exchange of views and dissemination of information. However, its value went beyond being one workshop among many. It constituted an important step toward initiating an open culture of dialogue as called for by the Special Rapporteur.

The UNDP is committed to supporting Sudanese society in combating gender violence at all levels. In practice this means among other things promoting open dialogue, building the capacity of the justice sector to investigate and prosecute cases, and supporting civil society organisations that work directly with survivors.

Recommendations from the workshop will be considered, evaluated and rolled out by stakeholders, following the lead of the CVAW Unit.

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