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article imageJournalist in Sudan Convicted of Wearing 'Indecent' Trousers

By Chris Dade     Sep 7, 2009 in World
A female journalist in Sudan, found guilty under the country's penal code of wearing trousers that were deemed indecent, has been sent to jail for one month after she refused to pay the $200 fine that was imposed on her by a court in Khartoum.
Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a 34-year-old widow who resigned her position with the United Nations in order to fight the charge that was brought against her, faced a possible sentence of 40 lashes, as well as an unlimited fine, for being in breach of Article 152 of Sudan's penal code, which relates to the type of clothing women in the country are permitted to wear in public.
As France 24 reports Sudanese women are not actually banned from wearing trousers but there appears to be conflicting opinion as to what is sufficiently modest and what is considered to be revealing. And being revealing does not necessarily mean that any flesh is visible, merely that the shape of a woman's body is too easily discernible.
The case involving Ms Hussein has attracted much international attention, with the journalist herself using Facebook to generate publicity for her cause. In addition she sent out 500 invitations for people to attend her first court appearance in August, an appearance that the London Times says was marked by the firing of tear gas by riot police attempting to remove Ms Hussein's supporters from court.
And riot police were present at the court again today as the supporters of Ms Hussein, whose resignation from her job with the UN removed her immunity from prosecution, were confronted by men dressed in traditional Islamic clothing who were demanding the harshest possible treatment for a woman they apparently consider to be a prostitute because of her choice of clothing.
But not all men take such a dim view of a woman's right to dress as she chooses. Ahmed Elzobier is one man most definitely on the side of Ms Hussein and, after the court had delivered its verdict and the "guilty" woman had continued her defiance of a law she sees as unjust, he said:
Lubna has bravely sacrificed her freedom to free other women from the oppression of the law. She is not guilty, but the police the court and the government are the guilty ones. The campaign will continue. Although Lubna is going to prison, the rest of her supporters will keep challenging these laws
Ms Hussein, who arrived in court wearing the very same trousers that led to her arrest in July, is now in the women's prison in Omdurman, a city separated from the Sudanese capital Khartoum by the River Nile, after deciding not to pay the fine of 500 Sudanese pounds ($200) which the judge handed down to her. According to France 24 her lawyers are still trying to convince her that it would be in her best interests to pay a fine which might be considered a lenient punishment in view of the sentence that could have been passed.
Despite a 2005 agreement which guaranteed that Christians and Muslims in Sudan would by and large be subject to different laws, much ambiguity seems to remain. Some of the women arrested with Ms Hussein for wearing trousers were Christians but after admitting to indecency they were given ten lashes, in accordance with a law many would argue should only apply to Muslims.
However human rights for all, irrespective of religion, seems to be the main theme of Ms Hussein's campaign to repeal a law she feels has no place in modern-day Sudan.
More about Sudan, Sharia, United Nations
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