October 22, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The head of Sudan’s main clerical authority, the Religious Scholars Committee (RSC), has publicly advocated girl child marriage, drawing the ire of women activists rights who called for an immediate ban against the practice.
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According to the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA ), a local NGO, RSC’s chairman Mohamed Osman Salih, made his endorsement of girl child marriage in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 17 October during a debate organized by the United Nation Fund for Population (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Sudanese Ministry of Religious Guidance on Girl’s Child Marriage.
SIHA reported that Salih argued that girl child marriage is an appreciative matter in Islam and has many advantages including the prospect of being able to produce many offspring.
The NGO recalled that in 2009 the RSC issued a Fatwa endorsing female circumcision despite much lobbying by activists to ban the harmful practice.
SIHA further criticized the fact that the Sudanese government has failed to amend the laws that allow girl child marriage, referring to the Sudan Personal Status Act of 1991 which contains an article allowing for the marriage of girls as young as 10.
“As women activists, women’s human rights defenders and community leaders across the Horn of Africa, we are saddened by the lack of progress Sudan is demonstrating and the lack of will to amend and revise the country’s laws and legislations towards respecting the human rights and dignity of women and girls” SIHA’s statement reads.
SIHA called on the Sudanese government to conform the country’s personal laws with international obligations and to immediately ban and criminalize the granting of marriage licenses for girls under the age of 18.
It also called for abolishing all legislation that seeks to undermine and violate women’s human rights.