Sudanese journalist faces flogging for "indecent" clothing



 
Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese journalist and UN employee in Khartoum, had her trial moved to Tuesday, after being accused of wearing "indecent" clothes. Hussein was arrested along with a group of other women in a Khartoum restaurant in early July for wearing pants. If convicted she will face 40 lashes and a fine of 100 US dollars.
 
By ALEXANDRA SANDELS
 
Sudan journalist
Sudanese journalist and UN employee Lubna Hussein accused of wearing "indecent" clothing.

BEIRUT, July 28, 2009 (MENASSAT) — On July 3, Hussein was out dining in a Khartoum restaurant when police suddenly entered the facility and demanded a group of 13 women wearing pants to follow them to the police station.  

Speaking to AFP, Hussein said ten of the women were summoned by the police a few days later and lashed 10 ten times each.  Some of the women whipped earlier this month are to have included non-Muslims and residents of areas in the country where Islamic sharia law does not apply.  

Now Hussein herself risks facing the whip and appeared in court on Wednesday for wearing “indecent” clothes. 

"This is not a case about me wearing pants," AFP quoted Hussein as saying. "This is a case about annulling the article that addresses women's dress code, under the title of indecent acts. This is my battle. This article is against the constitution and even against Islamic law itself," she said after the hearing.

Hussein is resigning from a U.N. job that grants her immunity so she can challenge this law. If convicted of the offense, Hussein says she will be lashed 40 times and fined 250 Sudanese pounds ($100). But Judge Mudathir Rashid adjourned the hearing until Aug. 4 to give Hussein time to quit her job, which she said she would do immediately.

Hussein says that she has not done anything wrong under Sharia law by wearing pants, and that there exists an article in the Sudanese criminal law which prohibits wearing "indecent" clothing.

The Cairo-based NGO The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a recent statement that Hussein had been charged for “sensational dressing up.” If convicted of such an offense, punishment will come in the form of 40 lashes- carried out in public, according to article #152/1991 in the Sudanese criminal law.  

The organization said the police considered Hussein’s clothing style “a threat to the values and virtues of the Sudanese society”.  

Hussein writes for the left-leaning Al-Sahafa newspaper and maintains her own column, “Men’s Talk.” She also works for the media department of the United Nations in Sudan.  
 
In a bid to shed light on her case and garner publicity for the incident, Hussein printed 500 invitation cards and sent out batches of emails encouraging people to attend her court hearing.

"It is important that people know what is happening. They will lash me 40 times, and also fine me 250 Sudanese pounds ($100),” Hussein is reported to have written on the invitations.

Meanwhile, a woman journalist who wrote an article criticizing the way Hussein has been treated, was recently charged with defaming the police.

Amal Habbani is the editor of the column “Tiny Issues” in Sudan’s Ajrass Al Horreya (Freedom Bells) and published her article "Lubna, a case of subduing a woman's body” in the newspaper on July 12.  

In her piece, Habbani argued that Hussein’s case has little to do with a woman committing a fashion offense, instead suggesting that the case has a political motive and an attempt to “intimidate and terrorize opponents”, reported ANHRI.  

AFP reports that Habbani could face a hefty fine of several hundred thousand dollars if convicted. ANHRI puts the amount owed by Habbani if convicted at around $400,000.

ANHRI calls on human rights organizations and press freedom groups to support Hussein and Habbani and to rally against such trials which the organization says violate “every known international treaty defending women’s rights and press freedom.”