A murder trial in Sudan that gripped international attention has come to a close. Late yesterday, Noura Hussein, the 16-year-old girl who was sentenced to death for killing the man who raped her, had her sentence commuted to five years in prison.
To be sure, this sentence is not perfect. Amnesty International still calls this five years imprisonment a disproportionate punishment, but Amnesty is also calling on the Sudanese government to make this case a catalyst for legal review and reform the laws around child marriage, forced marriage and marital rape, “so that victims are not the ones who are penalized.”
Noura’s case made international news and gained nearly 1.5 million signatures on a Change.org petition calling for her release. The outpouring of support for a child bride who killed her abuser was rare but in the era of #MeToo, this may be the new global norm.
Does Noura’s Case Mean the #MeToo Movement Can Impact the Developing World?
The #MeToo agenda has not had the same impact globally as it has, and continues to have, in the United States. In the US, famous actresses protested on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival to speak out against inequality, a Time’s Up legal defense fund has been established to help women who can’t afford legal fees still find recourse for their injustices, and Harvey Weinstein finally has been arrested on rape charges. Globally, the fervor has been less encompassing but still present. In China, the hashtag #RiceBunny which in Chinese is roughly pronounced me too, has been used to speak out against government censorship.
But the recent feminist reckoning is very new and doesn’t have full support. #WeFew on twitter is used to cast doubt on the validity of the #MeToo movement and the movement has faced intense backlash in countries like France and India.
The reality though is that instances of rape, child marriage and violence against women occur more often than the success stories of the #MeToo movement or stories like Noura’s.
Globally, almost 750 million women and girls are alive today who were married before their 18th birthday. Of those murdered by an intimate partner, only 6% of men are murdered by an intimate partner compared to the nearly 50% of women. Nearly 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced rape or other sexual acts, most of which are perpetrated by intimate partners.
Noura escaped execution, but she did not escape punishment for her alleged crime. We are at a place in history where, one day, another woman in a similar situation as Noura’s will not face punishment. But for today, violence and child marriage still hold deep roots in our global society and to have Noura’s death sentence overturned is a win.