08 September 2009
A month for wearing trousers
Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein faces up to a month in prison after being convicted of indecency. According to the Independent she was not sentenced to a beating of 40 lashes as is common with such a conviction but instead was given a $200 fine.
"I will not pay a penny," she told reporters at the court in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. "I won't pay, as a matter of principle. I would spend a month in jail. It is a chance to explore the conditions in jail."
Ms Hussein quit her job with the United Nations to strip herself of immunity and fight the charge, attended the hearing wearing the same trousers she had worn when arrested. The pair of loose green slacks have now been seen around the world as Ms Hussein has attracted global headlines in her battle.
The 43-year-old widow has emerged as a powerful campaigner against Sudan's strict laws that limit how a woman can dress, and vowed to appeal against the conviction to the country's highest court if necessary. She has said she would tolerate "40,000 lashes" if that's what it takes to change the law.Public support for her has surprised authorities in Sudan and before yesterday's hearing dozens of women wearing trousers and protesting outside the court were arrested.
"Lubna has given us a chance. She is very brave. Thousands of girls have been beaten since the 1990s, but Lubna is the first one not to keep silent," one of the protesters, Sawsan Hassan el-Showaya, told Reuters.
T he trial has become a test case for women's rights in Sudan. The journalist was arrested in July at a party in Khartoum along with 12 other women and had faced the possibility of 40 lashes for wearing trousers deemed indecent. Ten of the other women arrested at the same time have since pleaded guilty and suffered a public flogging.
Campaigners in Sudan complain that the decency code gives too much latitude to individual policemen, leading to often arbitrary arrests. Article 152 of Sudan's penal code states that "indecent" dress among women is punishable by a fine and public flogging. Amnesty International called on Sudan to review the law. "The penalty called for by the law, up to 40 lashes [is] abhorrent," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty's deputy Africa director. "Women are routinely arrested, detained, tried and then, on conviction, flogged simply because a police officer disapproves of their clothing."