The presentation focuses on criminal law reform looking specifically at zina legislation, an Islamic jurisprudential term that defines extra-marital intercourse as a criminal offence, and how it relates to legal definitions of rape. Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan have introduced hudud and have thus criminalized zina and the study focuses on these specific cases. In most criminal codes in these countries with hudud, zina is not clearly differentiated from rape something which constitutes a serious human rights violation for rape victims.   The paper presents findings from Sudan which is a typical example of a state that defines rape as zina without consent. Over the last several years, the reform of Sudan’s rape laws has become a priority for Sudanese women activists, despite government repression of those advocating reforms.The Interim National Constitution of 2005, which includes a bill of rights for women, sparked an extensive review and advocacy for reform of Sudan’s laws codified by the current Islamist regime, including the Criminal Act. Meanwhile, the outbreak of armed conflict in the western province of Darfur, with rampant sexual violence, put rape on the agenda of women activists. A range of women’s groups organized in the 149 alliance taking the name of the rape article in Sudan’s Criminal Act. The alliance first highlighted the conflation of rape and zina in the current Criminal Act and the impact of this on rape victims in the Darfur conflict. Sudan’s president is currently facing an arrest order from the international criminal court holding him responsible for widespread and systematic use of sexual violence in Darfur.  The recent attention by Sudanese activists to sexual violence and the advocacy for reform of Sudan’s laws on rape has coincided with growing international awareness of rape in armed conflict over the last 15 years. Sexual violence has been recognized as a “weapon in war” and as a threat to international peace and security in numerous UN Security Council resolutions


Liv Tønnessen

Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher