July 15, 2020
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the decision of Sudan’s transitional government to repeal its apostasy law by adopting the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act.
USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins said, “Sudan’s transitional government continues to live up to its commitment to justice, peace, and freedom. These new measures are important to protect the freedom of the Sudanese people to freely choose and practice their faith without punishment.”
The Act makes significant legislative changes that advances freedom of religion or belief for Sudanese citizens, including repealing the apostasy law, ending flogging, banning female genital mutilation (FGM), permitting non-Muslims to drink alcohol, and abolishing the guardianship law, which required women to get a permit from a male guardian for traveling abroad with their children. While the full text of the legislation has not yet been made public, reports indicate that the apostasy law was replaced by an article that prohibits hate speech, however the status of Sudan’s blasphemy law remains unclear.
“We applaud the significant, historic steps Sudan is taking to safeguard the rights of women and girls and the freedom of religion or belief, and urge wide, immediate, and effective implementation of these reforms,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava. “We also urge Sudan to continue with necessary legislative reform, including repealing the country’s blasphemy law and ensuring that laws regulating hate speech comply with international human rights standards and do not impede freedom of religion or belief.”
In February, USCIRF Vice Chairs Perkins and Bhargava traveled to Sudan to assess religious freedom conditions. Due to the significant progress made by the Sudanese transitional government in 2019 to address the worst religious freedom abuses of the former regime, USCIRF recommended in its 2020 Annual Report that the Department of State maintain Sudan on its Special Watch List (SWL). This was the first time since 2000 that USCIRF has not recommended Sudan for designation as a “country of particular concern” for systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. In December 2019, USCIRF released a report entitled Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Hate Speech Laws in Africa, which explains how overbroad or vague hate speech laws can operate as blasphemy provisions and similarly restrict the freedom of religion or belief.