Sudanese Muslim officials arrest tens of thousands of women a year for wearing "indecent clothing,” including trousers, and many have been fined and subjected to 40 whip lashes. One woman tells related the story after being spared the punishment, apparently because she attracted too much bad publicity.
Lubna al-Hussein told her story on Egyptian television last month, and the interview was translated by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Hussein is a journalist and has diplomatic immunity because she works for the United Nations, and her fight for women’s rights left her with a sentence that was not carried out although she waived her immunity. However, dozens of other women arrested along with her for wearing "indecent clothing” suffered a worse fate.
Her crime was wearing trousers.
She said that the court system in such cases does not allow a defendant to defend himself. "In my case, because of the publicity and the public support I received, I took a lawyer who defended me, but the judge refused to give the defense witnesses a chance to be heard. This is what happened. It was all decided in advance,” she said in the interview.
”Indecent clothing" is defined according to the policeman’s mood,” al-Hussein added. “[The law says], ‘clothing that offends public sentiment.’ Let me tell you, I was at a place with 400 people, and I didn’t offend anybody. The same law that requires giving a woman forty lashes for wearing trousers requires giving a man who rapes a boy, a girl, or a woman one month in prison. All the women [except for me} were punished with floggings and with a fine. The entire group... We were 13 women, and 12 were sentenced to a flogging and a fine. I was fined, but when I wanted to pay, they refused to accept the money.
“There are tens of thousands like me. In a single year, 43,000 women were arrested because of their clothing – not in all of Sudan, but in Khartoum alone, as declared by the police general commissioner. This is the law, I’m sad to say.”