Wednesday, 5 August 2009

On Trial For Wearing Trousers

No not the Fashion Police, but its happening in Sudan this week. Its been said that the Koran doesnt specify what clothing is indecent, but spme authoritarian societies based on patriarchy use some dark ages laws to oppress women.

Lubna Hussein, a widow in her thirties, challenged the authorities on the eve of her trial, saying that she is willing to take thousands of lashes if it advances the rights of the country’s women.

Protesting women carried banners and headbands with the message, “No return to the dark ages,” and shouted slogans against laws which ban dress deemed indecent. Riot police armed with batons moved in to clear the streets around the protesters.

Ms Hussein has taken a stand against Sudan’s stringent public order laws, hoping that her case will trigger their abolition. She faces up to 40 lashes if found guilty today of dressing “indecently” by wearing trousers. “I’m ready to be whipped not 40 but 40,000 times,” she said. “Tens of thousands of women and girls have been whipped for their clothes these past 20 years. It’s not rare in Sudan. I want these women’s voices to be heard.”

Ms Hussein hopes to change Sudanese laws by fighting the case in the courts and in the media. Her defiance has turned her into a cause célèbre in a country where women more often take their punishment quietly. She said she would waive her right to immunity as an employee of the UN mission in Sudan, where she works as a public information officer.

Women’s groups have complained that the law gives no clear definition of indecent dress, leaving the decision of whether to arrest a women up to the judgement of individual police officers.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said last week that he was “deeply concerned” at the prospect of an employee suffering a flogging. “The UN will take every effort to ensure that the rights of its staff members are protected,” he said

Ms Hussein says she has done nothing wrong under Sharia law, but could fall foul of a paragraph in Sudanese criminal law which forbids indecent clothing.

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