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Mass rape, often perpetrated by members of the Sudanese armed forces and affiliated militias, is endemic in the Darfur region of Sudan. Government officials deny that rape is an integral part of violence in Darfur and assert that Sudan aggressively punishes rape. In fact, rape victims suffer from an almost complete lack of access to justice, and the Government is more likely to take action against those who report and document rape than those who commit it.
The high incidence of sexual violence in Darfur has been well documented. The inadequacies of Sudan’s laws, regulations, customs and courts for dealing with rape have received less scrutiny. Yet the response to rape cannot be improved until the laws are rewritten.
The goal of this report, which is based on an analysis of Sudanese law and extensive interviews in Khartoum, is to help focus attention on laws and procedures that must be changed. Refugees International continues to call on the U.S. to implement tougher policies against the Government of Sudan, including stricter sanctions, to end the violence and rape in Darfur. The analysis by Refugees International concluded that:
1. Sudan’s laws governing rape expose victims to further abuse.
2. Prosecution of rape is often functionally impossible because Sudan grants immunity to individuals with government affiliations.
3. In the climate of fear and suspicion that prevails in Darfur, many survivors do not access medical, legal, and psychosocial services offered by legitimate national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
4. Medical services for rape victims are entangled with governmental documentation requirements.
5. Women with little or no education need assistance to file claims with the police, which is often not available.
Rape is viewed as a serious stigma in Darfur. As a result, Darfuri women are extremely reluctant to report they have been raped. Sudanese NGO s working within the camps have implemented valuable education programs that help these communities to cope with the problem of mass rape and international NGO s must continue to work with local women’s groups on these programs.
It is vital to note that there is nothing inherently Islamic about the way Sudan’s rape law is constructed. Pakistan, a country that imposes Islamic law, changed its rape law in 2006, allowing rape to be considered a crime distinct from zina. Similarly, in 2006 the Republic of the Maldives took steps to reform its laws to comply with international norms.
Refugees International recommends that the Government of Sudan take similar steps and carry out legal reforms that allow victims of sexual abuse to access justice. In addition, the hybrid peacekeeping force of the African Union Mission in Sudan and the UN must adopt a mandate that protects women and girls in Darfur and allocate sufficient resources and training to deal with survivors of gender-based violence.
In Sudan today civil society organizations and even some judges are calling for rape law reform and improvements in legal remedies for rape victims. This study, which is dedicated to the women of Darfur, is intended to help those efforts.