What #JusticeforNoura Tells Us About the Women and the Death Penalty

Two weeks ago, Noura Hussien was sentenced to death for the murder of her rapist. Today, Noura’s legal team have filed an appeal against this decision. “Noura was a victim of child marriage, forced marriage, rape and denial of justice,” her legal team said in a statement. Though the injustice of this case is clear to many internationally, Noura may not escape her sentence.

Globally, it’s uncommon for a woman to receive the death penalty. Though the statistics are not easy to come by, women make up a small percentage of death row inmates around the world. For example, in the United States, a country with one of the top ten death penalty rates in the world, only 2.9% of executions have been carried out on women since 1608. China executes thousands of people per year, many more than any other country on the top ten list, but this information is not released to the public.

Even when a woman commits a crime that is punishable by death in the countries that allow capital punishment, women often are exempt from that punishment. In these countries, there are often laws that protect or prohibit this punishment for women who are pregnant and/or have small children.

Where women do make up the majority of death sentences is in countries where stoning is still practiced. Though stoning has been made illegal in most parts of the world, this cultural practice is often still carried out in cases where women have been accused of adultery. Sudan is one of the countries where it is legal to sentence a woman to death by stoning for adultery but in the past few years, though several women have been sentenced, their sentences have been appealed.

What is common on Noura’s case is the fact that she was raped. Globally, more than one third of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Women who are attacked by an intimate male partner do not survive 38% of the time. Noura may have been fortunate enough to beat the odds and survive her attack, but she will unlikely escape her sentence.

But there may be hope for Noura yet. According to Amnesty International, in 2016 21 people were sentenced to death in Sudan and only 2 of those executions were carried out.  Ultimately, though, the deep misogyny that lead to Noura’s original death sentence is prevalant in Sudan and around the world. Until that changes, we can expect more injustices like the one that is currently being visited upon Noura.