By Nita Bhalla
NAIROBI, July 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Sudanese teenager who killed her husband as he tried to rape her has appealed against a court decision jailing her for five years in a case which could help curb sexual violence in the north African nation, campaigners said on Thursday.
Noura Hussein, 19, gained global attention in May after a Sharia court, which follows Islamic law, sentenced her to death for stabbing her husband as he tried to rape her.
Her story - where she was married off aged 16 to her 35-year-old cousin - triggered an outpouring of support globally under hashtag #JusticeForNoura, including an online petition with over 1.5 million signatures appealing for clemency.
Last month, a Sudanese court overturned the death sentence and jailed her for five years with a fine of 337,000 Sudanese pounds ($18,600).
Campaigners working with Hussein's legal team said the reduced sentence was unfair as she had acted in self-defence, and have now filed an appeal seeking her "unconditional freedom" with no fine or jail term to be served.
"The courts of Sudan surely must do right by Noura. Indeed, they must do right by the women and girls of Sudan," said Judy Gitau, a lawyer with the campaign group Equality Now.
"This appeal is important because to ask Noura to serve a prison term of any length for fighting off a rapist is to tell the women and girls of Sudan that they do not matter, that they do not have rights - which is not the case."
Freeing Hussein would not only help empower other women and girls to speak out against sex crimes, said campaigners, but could also act as a deterrent by sending a message to society that rape was unacceptable under any circumstances.
UN Women says violence against women and girls is prevalent in Sudan, and the country has weak policies in place to protect them. Marital rape and child marriage, for example, are not considered crimes in the largely Muslim nation.
Sudanese law allows for the marriage of a girl once she hits puberty. It also says a 10-year-old girl can be married by their guardian with the permission of a judge. One in three Sudanese women are married before the age of 18, says UN Women.
Hussein claims her father forced her to marry her cousin in 2015, but she did not live with him until April this year.
She refused to have sex with her husband, but he raped her as three of his relatives held her down. The next day, he tried to rape her again and, as she struggled to stop him, she stabbed and killed him. She has been in jail for three months.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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