February 6, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - An 18-year-old pregnant Ethiopian woman who was the victim of a brutal gang-rape last August in Omdurman has been sleeping on the concrete floor of a police cell since her arrest on 17 January, advocacy group, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), said in a public statement on Tuesday.
- Women advocates say serious shortcomings in Sudanese laws contribute to the lack of protection for victims of sexual violence in Sudan (UN)
It’s alleged the woman was lured to an empty property while searching for a rental home in Omdurman, which neighbours the capital, Khartoum, where she was pinned down and raped by seven men.
The attack was filmed by one of the participants and later circulated on social media.
SIHA said the woman, who is married and was about three months pregnant at the time of the attack, decided not to report the rape out of fear after her attackers threatened further violence.
The woman was detained last month under Articles 153 and 154 of Sudan’s criminal code, pertaining to the making and distribution of indecent material and indecent behaviour. All seven of the alleged perpetrators have since been arrested by police.
Now nine months pregnant, SIHA said the victim, who has been sleeping on the bare floor of her cell without a mattress, was in urgent need of psychological support and medical attention.
However, repeated attempts by legal representatives to have her bail application heard have been refused on the grounds that the investigation is still ongoing.
An application to the attorney-general submitted on behalf of the victim in order to arrange a meeting to file a rape case against the perpetrators has also been declined.
“By preventing the victim from making a formal complaint of rape, she is denied the opportunity for a formal legal investigation into the crime and could render the perpetrators immune from justice”, SIHA said in the statement.
The advocacy group said footage of the attack, which has been seen by SIHA staff, clearly shows that the woman was pinned down against her will while her attackers took turns to violate her.
It has called on police and judicial authorities to uphold their obligations under local, regional and international law, and launch an immediate criminal investigation.
CASE HIGHLIGHTS PREJUDICE
The case has highlighted the racial prejudices that exist in Sudan against Ethiopian migrants, with the victim publicly portrayed as a promiscuous woman and willing participant in her attack.
SIHA said the case also raised serious questions about the way survivors of rape are treated by police in Sudan.
“The speed with which the general public and media have been willing to condemn the female victim as opposed to denounce the perpetrators reflects the deep-seated prejudices and assumptions that culpability for sexual violence lies with a woman and her behaviour,”“ SIHA said in an earlier statement.
A December 2013 report detailed rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence confronting the women of Sudan.
The report, produced by Canada’s Nobel Women’s Initiative in partnership with the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, described the situation faced by survivors of rape and sexual violence in Sudan as “dire”, with victims routinely threatened, jailed and denied medical treatment.
According to the report, one of the most daunting challenges facing rape survivors in Sudan is the fact that the burden of proof often rests with the victim.
Those that do come forward to report their rape risk being accused of adultery, an offence punishable by flogging or death by stoning if the woman is married.