Sudan abolished a law against apostasy that carried the death penalty and loosened prohibitions on drinking alcohol, removing some of the most notorious restrictions of ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist rule.
Authorities have also officially outlawed female genital mutilation, a step previously announced, Justice Minister Nasur Aldin Abdul Bari said Saturday in an interview on state TV. It was the first widely publicized explanation of the amendments made last week.
“We are keen to demolish any kind of discrimination that was enacted by the old regime and to move toward equality of citizenship and a democratic transformation,” Abdul Bari said. Punishment by whipping, commonly enacted by morality police for alleged infractions during Bashir’s reign, was also abolished.
Bashir, who turned Sudan into an international pariah after seizing power in 1989, was overthrown by the army in April last year amid mass protests. The youth that drove the demonstrations have since pushed ahead with a low-level revolution against the country’s social conservatism, often leaving the transitional government of military and civilian officials racing to catch up.
Under the new laws, Sudan’s Christians would be able to drink, import and sell alcohol, Abdul Bari said.
In one of the most notorious instances of the apostasy law being applied, a pregnant Christian woman in 2014 received a death sentence after refusing to renounce her faith in favor of Islam. She was eventually freed and left Sudan after a global outcry.
The justice minister also said the government is studying calls to hand over Sudanese citizens wanted by the International Criminal Court, including Bashir, who was jailed for two years for corruption but indicted by The Hague-based institution for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
“The entire government is studying the many ways of how to prosecute the Darfur crimes,” Abdul Bari said, but has “in general accepted the principle of them appearing in front of the ICC.”