Sudan has repealed a provision of its Penal Code that imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Article 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code from 1991 said anyone who is convicted of sodomy three times "shall be punished with death, or with life imprisonment."
Noor Sultan, executive director of the Bedayaa Organization, an LGBTQ advocacy group that works in Sudan and Egypt, told the Washington Blade from Cairo that Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chair of Sudan's Sovereignty Council, which was created last year to govern the country on an interim basis after then-President Omar al-Bashir's ouster, approved the removal of the death penalty provision from Article 148.
The Sovereignty Council also removed the "hundred lashes" punishment from Article 148. Consensual same-sex sexual relations in Sudan are still punishable by up to seven years in prison.
"It is a great step toward change and reflect the willingness of the government," Sultan told the Blade. "The law is still there and the jail sentence is still there, but we are optimistic."
Maria Sj√∂din, deputy executive director of OutRight Action International, in a statement noted the repeal of the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual relations is among the reforms the Sovereignty Council approved.
"The removal of the death penalty for same-sex intimacy in Sudan among other important reforms, such as the banning of female genital mutilation and stoning for apostasy, is an important step for the human rights of LGBTIQ people, and human rights in Sudan overall," said Sj√∂din.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.