Su­danese in­de­cency laws need to be changed

Seaway News - - LIFESTYLE - OPIN­ION

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.

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