Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) August 05, 2009 -- For a woman of Sudan to take a public stance on any issue is a rarity, let alone her right to challenge the laws of decency and defy the dress code. Lubna Hussein is not too scared to face the ultimate penalty of 40 lashes for her bravery.
A former United Nations journalist, Hussein, created chaotic scenes when she appeared in court, dressed in the same green pants that caused her arrest. Hussein resigned her position at the United Nations as it seemed to be giving her immunity from prosecution.
Members of the public-order police force raided a private party at a popular restaurant in Khartoumâs Riyadh district and arrested 13 women. Hussein was among the group. All but three of the women were lashed at a police station two days later and fined 250 Sudanese pounds (around $120).
For any woman to be seen publicly wearing trousers is considered indecent by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, adopted by Sudan's Islamic regime. The restrictions on public decency are not rigidly enforced in Khartoum, though indecency cases are not uncommon in Sudan. Since an army coup led by President Omar al-Bashir seized power in 1989, toppling an elected but ineffective government, Islamic Sharia law has been implemented in Sudan. Activists and lawyers however, claim the implementation of the law is not done consistently.
"Thousands of women are punished with lashes in Sudan but they stay silent", Hussein said. "The law is being used to harass women and I want to expose this". Floggings are used as a punishment for a number of dismeanours, including brewing alcohol to wearing pants publicly. "This article is against the constitution and even against Islamic law itself", Hussein said after the hearing.
This test case is being closely watched by human rights groups. Politicians and members of the Sudanese Womenâs Union were present, plus many supporters wearing trousers. Diplomats from various embassies also attended the court hearing, including France, Canada, Sweden and Spain.
"The SPLM is calling for this law to be repealed. It humiliates both Christian and Muslim women", said a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, (SPLM) the strongest party in southern Sudan. Flogging another human being is against the international human rights standards.
The question needs to be asked, why was this particular group of women signaled out at this restaurant? Particularly as one of them was a woman journalist. Was it because she dared to write criticisms about the Sudanese oppressive regime?
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