Sudanese indecency laws need to be changed
Some people are offended by Muslim women wearing burkas, chadors and burqinis. These are new and innovative modest attire worn by some women in the Islamic world.
I understand some opposition from non-Muslims to wearing these attires. But, what can be wrong with wearing pants?
If you are in Sudan, you could be in real hot water for wearing ordinary garment worn by billions of people around the world.
I have said this before and will repeat it again: Women should be allowed to wear what they please in public places, provided it does not violate standards of common decency. This brings me to the most recent case of Lubna Ahmed Hussein, a Sudanese journalist.
The courageous journalist was fighting against laws seeking to control women. She was put on trial for wearing clothing deemed indecent by Sudanese authorities and was jailed for refusing to pay a court ordered fine. Hussein had originally faced 40 lashes for wearing pants deemed too tight and a blouse considered too sheer. The threat of lashes was dropped when a court found her guilty but ordered instead that she pay a fine. She refused to pay the fine as a matter of principle. Hussein appealed her verdict in an effort to have the government’s decency law declared unconstitutional.
However, Hussein was freed after spending a day in jail.
The Sudanese Union of Journalists paid the $ 210 fine imposed by a Khartoum court. Had the fine not been paid, Hussein would have spent a month in jail.
“ They just came to me in the prison and told me I have to go. I have no idea why. I am not happy,” she said.
Hussein said there are more than 700 women still in the prison who have got no one to pay for them. Her supporters say thousands of women have been convicted of similar offences under Sudan’s Islamic decency regulations in recent years and sentenced to beatings.
The journalist was wearing slacks when she was arrested along with 12 other women in a Khartoum restaurant in July.
Sudanese law in the conservative Muslim north stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes for wearing indecent clothing.
Ten of the women were arrested with her were summoned by police and flogged.
Hussein led a public battle against the law, resigning from the United Nations where she worked as a media officer to stand trial. Her case led to an outcry abroad and demonstrations at home. Hussein insisted that she never had a fair trial. She was not allowed to call witnesses or present a defence case.
Police discharged tear gas at people outside the courthouse and also closed roads in the area before the start of the trial. The Sudanese security forces roughly handled scores of Hussein supporters.
The Sudanese government also accused the West of interfering in the case. Amnesty International the human rights organization, had earlier called for charges to be dropped.
The Sudanese government is simply suppressing women and return to the dark ages.
Flogging is also against the international human rights standards.
The international community should be pressuring Sudan to drop its draconian morality laws. Hussein refused to pay the fine. She wore the same trousers that sparked her arrest.
Many women also wore trousers in a sign of solidarity.
The Sudanese government implements a conservative version of Islamic law in the north.
Under public indecency laws, anyone committing an act of wearing clothing deemed indecent can be punished with a flogging or a fine.
In mostly Muslim northern Sudan, many women wear traditional flowing robes that also cover their hair.
It is not uncommon for women to wear trousers, even though conservatives consider it immodest.
Lubna Hussein wearing the same pants she wore when she was arrested.