Noura Hussein, a 19-year-old Sudanese woman was found guilty of attempted murder last week after suffering marital rape.

The court’s decision sparked an outcry from women’s rights activists. Many expressed solidarity with Noura Hussein, arguing that the murder was an act of self-defense. Under the Sudanese criminal code, attempted murder is punishable by execution.

The young woman is being held in solitary confinement and faces execution. Her family denounced her and moved away from their village south of Khartoum, fearing revenge from the deceased husband’s family.

The federal court had convicted Noura Hussein of attempted murder under Article 130 of the Sudanese Criminal Code. The decision on her sentence was delayed to allow discussions with the blood relatives on whether they want the “Deya/blood money”, a monetary amount paid to compensate relatives of the deceased.

According to Noura Hussein’s lawyer, Mouwya Kheder, his client was offered marriage three years ago when she was only 16, and she rejected the proposal. Her family forced her into the marriage, and they signed the marital contract against her will.

The lawyer told 7Dnews that his client had refused to complete the marriage ceremony. She ran away from her family home south of Khartoum to the house of one of her relatives in Sennar region. Three years later, her late husband called her saying that he had given up on the marriage, and she could return home. She was shocked when she returned home to find that her family and husband were completing the marriage ceremony.

Kheder said his client was taken by the groom to an apartment in Khartoum for the honeymoon. Noura refused to have sex with him for four days. On the fifth day, he brought his cousins to the apartment, where they grabbed her, and he aggressively raped her in front of them.

On the next day, he attempted to rape her again, when she stabbed him multiple times which led to his immediate death.

The act of marital rape is not criminalised in Sudanese law, so a husband is allowed to force his wife to have sex against her will.

Kheder does not think his client deserves any sentence, much less a charge of attempted murder and possibly execution. She was defending herself at a time she was mentally and psychologically disturbed as a result of rape.

Kheder said his client had passed out during her trial several times, which confirms that she is not psychologically well, and still suffering from the violence she was subjected to.

Kheder said Noura’s defense committee will appeal against the sentence, and will get his client checked by a psychologist to assess the impact of the trauma caused by surviving the sexual assault. He urged civil society and women’s right defenders to press for listing marital rape as a crime punishable by law.

The prosecution lawyer, Ali Hasan Abdulrahman, told local media that Noura deserved to be executed. He described her act of murder as “brutal” and said she did not allow her husband to call for help.

He added that the deceased was spending money on her and her family during the past three years of their marriage. He had waited until she reached the age of 19, and she still rejected him.