With the passage of the new Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act coming out of Sudan, there has been the formal repeal of its apostasy law, which becomes a basis for the furtherance of religious and non-religious freedom of belief and practice in the world. Sudan made a formal move for the respect of international human rights.
The USCIRF or the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom took the decision of the “transitional government” as a positive.
Indeed, the Vice Chair of USCIRF, Tony Perkins, stated, “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.”
Principles of freedom, justice, and peace bind to international human rights in modern formulations of ethics. The Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act provides more freedom of religion and freedom of belief for citizens of Sudan with startlingly rapid or swift changes including the repeal of the apostasy law, an end to female genital mutilation (“banning”), the end of flogging, abolition of the guardianship law, and permission for non-Muslims to drink alcoholic beverages.
These are stark changes demarcating a clear message and transitional point for the modernization and secularization of significant portions of Sudanese culture.
“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,” USCIRF reported.
Anurima Bhargava, another Vice Chair of the USCIRF, applauded the efforts and “historic steps” of Sudan in the protection of religious and belief freedom as well as ‘safeguarding the rights of women and girls.’ Bhargava spoke to the need for “wide, immediate, and effective implementation of these reforms.” The repeal of the blasphemy law and laws regulating hate speech were encouraged for repeal as well because of the standards set forth by international human rights.
Both Perkins and Bhargava travelled to Sudan in February of this year to “assess religious freedom conditions.” Based on the Sudanese progress since 2019 with the transitional government, they have been working – the Sudanese government – on the most egregious violations of international human rights delivered by the former regime.
“USCIRF recommended in its 2020 Annual Report that the Department of State maintain Sudan on its Special Watch List (SWL),” USCIRF stated, “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.”
With files from the USCIRF.