Monday, September 7, 2009

Woman Spared Lash For 'Indecent' Pants, For Now

For Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein a pair of pants has become a political statement. In July she and four dozen other women were arrested for wearing pants that Sudan's authorities declared were 'indecent'. The women were all part of a public protest against the law, which they say is enforced arbitrarily - women often wear trousers in Sudan, yet they can be punished if some official decides the pants show too much of the woman's 'shape', and the punishment can be up to 40 lashes from a whip.

Hussein works as a press officer for the United Nations in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, so technically she is regarded as a diplomat by the Sudanese government. But as part of her challenge against the lash law, Hussein waived her diplomatic immunity.

Her case rather quickly became an international rights embarrassment for Sudan. The government thought it had found a face-saving way out of the legal mess they'd created - the court in Khartoum on Monday decided instead to fine Hussein 500 Sudanese pounds (about $200) and spare the lash. But Hussein isn't letting this rest, now she's refusing to pay the fine, saying that she would prefer to go to prison - of face the 10 lashes that was her original sentence - in order to keep the world's attention focused on Sudan's discriminatory dress code. About 100 supporters - mostly women - gathered outside the courthouse on Monday, chanting "no to whipping!"
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