Sudan's Lubna Hussein Convicted for Wearing Trousers

For Wearing Pants, Hussein Charged $200 Fine, But Spared Lashes


NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept. 7, 2009 —

A Sudanese court convicted journalist Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein of indecency for wearing pants in public, ordering her to pay a $200 fine, but sparing her a sentence of receiving 40 lashes.

Hussein was one of 13 women arrested in Khartoum July 3, for wearing pants, a violation of the country's strict sharia law. Ten of the women paid the fine and were flogged shortly after their arrest, but Hussein and the other women decided to plead not guilty.

The charge and subsequent possible sentence of 40 lashes has caused a public outcry. Human rights group Amnesty International calls flogging laws "barbaric." United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has said flogging is "against the human rights standards," and said that the organization would protect Hussein, who was working in the United Nations Sudan mission.

But Hussein doesn't want protection. She turned down a presidential pardon and resigned from her UN position, wanting to be tried as a Sudanese citizen and for the case to go public. She sent out invitations to her first trial last month, even inviting people to her possible flogging.

The case was adjourned after the judge requested Hussein consider her options in seeking immunity, which she continued to decline.

Hussein has made it clear she doesn't see today's sentence, widely believed to be a compromise of upholding Sudanese law without causing an international uproar over flogging, as a victory.

On Friday she told The Associated Press that if convicted, she would sit in jail before paying a fine. "I will not pay a penny," she said. Her lawyer has reportedly suggested she pay the fine to settle the case, but she told reporters she plans to appeal the decision. Hussein said she wants the law repealed.

Hussein's case is not the first to cause international outrage over Sudan's interpretation and enforcement of strict Muslim Laws. In 2007, British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons was convicted of insulting Islam for naming her classroom's teddy bear Muhammed, a crime that also carried a sentence of 40 lashes. After intervention from the British government, Gibbons was released and deported after 15 days and was not flogged.

Lubna Hussein Says She's Fighting for Her Daughters

Amnesty International has also called for flogging laws to be repealed and the charges against Hussein dropped. The group says the law is in violation of the 2005 peace accord which ended decades of conflict between the predominantly Muslim North and mostly Christian South, and urged the government to respect international human rights and amend flogging laws.

"The manner in which this law has been used against women is unacceptable, and the penalty called for by the law -- up to 40 lashes -- abhorrent," said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa Program.

Dozens of protesters, mainly women wearing pants, marched outside the courtroom today in support of Hussein, and were detained by Sudanese police.

In a column published last week in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian entitled, "When I think of my trial, I pray my fight won't be in vain," Hussein says she's fighting not only for herself, but for her daughters and all the women in the world who are living under what she calls repressive regimes.

"When I think of my trial, I pray that my daughters will never live in fear of these 'police of security of society,'" she wrote. " We will only be secure once the police protect us and these laws are repealed."