Nearly 90 percent of all girls and women in Sudan have undergone genital mutilation, according to UN figures. But now the practice is banned, and anyone who performs genital mutilation can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years.

The ban is hailed by human rights activists.

"Sudan has really entered a new era for girls' rights with the criminalization of genital mutilation. What a fantastic day for my sisters and the future of Africa, Nimco Ali, founder of the coalition The Five Foundation, which combats genital mutilation, tweeted.

Prominent role

Sudanese women have long had a vulnerable existence with circumscribed freedom, but the country's transitional government has promised to prioritize women's rights. Part of the background is the prominent role played by women in the protests that in April 2019 led to the dictator Omar al-Bashir's fall.

The transitional government has previously repealed laws that restricted women's opportunities to work and study. Requirements to cover the hair in public and a ban on wearing pants outside the home have also been lifted. Several ministerial posts have also been awarded to women.

Difficult implementation

However, while they honor the ban, nonprofit organizations warn of the implementation becoming a challenge.

- A law against female genital mutilation can act as an important deterrent. But Sudan can have a hard time securing compliance. People who still believe in custom may not report cases or act to stop female genital mutilation when they know it is happening, says Faiza Mohamed, Africa's head of Equality Now, a global organization that works for girls' and women's rights.