When Humanists International released its annual “Freedom of Thought Report” in November, describing serious cases of discrimination and persecution against atheists around the world, the nation of Sudan was ranked 187 out of 196. (Saudi Arabia ranked last.) It’s not a place where religious freedom is taken seriously.
One of the reasons Sudan was ranked so low is because apostasy is considered a crime punishable by death. Leaving Islam because you’re no longer religious, then, is a capital crime.
But in March, the nation said it would consider removing the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy. (It shouldn’t be punished with a slap on the wrist either, but okay, still important.)
The change occurred at the urging of the country’s new Minister of Justice, Nasredeen Abdulbari (below), a 41-year-old former Georgetown student who said one of his goals was to put Sudan’s laws in “conformity with international human rights.” He took over that role after the former Sudanese ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted after protests in 2019.
In May, the nation announced another change: It would soon outlaw female genital mutilation. Anyone caught performed FGM could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
Now there’s confirmation that these changes — and more — have finally been enacted.
According to Abdulbari, reforms that became law last week include:
- Non-Muslims (about 3% of the population) are permitted to drink alcohol in private.
- The apostasy law is no longer in effect.
- There will be no more public floggings.
- Female genital mutilation is banned.
- Women don’t need their husband’s permission to travel alone with their kids.
It’s still a far cry from a society that values civil liberties, but these are huge steps for a nation previously governed under Islamic law. Perhaps when people realize these changes won’t create chaos, they’ll be willing to let other restrictions slide, too.
(Thanks to Scott for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)