Police in Khartoum stormed into a restaurant on 5 July and arrested 13 girls and women for wearing trousers in public. After two days in custody, 10 of the women, who were not represented by lawyers, were found guilty of indecency. They were punished with 10 lashes and a fine of around $100. One of the girls is 16 years old, another two are 17. Amnesty International opposes flogging as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and has publicly denounced its use in Sudan before.
Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein and two other women asked for legal representation. Whilst two of the women received and accepted a Presidential Pardon, Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein has refused the pardon offered her. She has stated that she will resign from her job with the United Nations Mission in Sudan so that she does not benefit from the immunity available to UN staff members. She wants to be tried as a Sudanese citizen.
Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein, who is a journalist, has written about the use of laws to harass women who in most cases don’t complaint for fear of being stigmatized. In order to highlight this widespread but under-reported problem, Ms Hussein is demanding her time in court to press for the repeal of the law that allows for women to be flogged for wearing "indecent or immoral dress… [which] causes annoyance to public feelings." The current law on "indecency", which allows for a punishment of up to 40 lashes and a fine, is open to wide interpretation by police, leading to harassment and arbitrary arrests.
Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein has appeared in Court twice, supported by some 50 demonstrators who were mainly women. Many wore trousers in support of her, and in opposition to the law. A further hearing is scheduled for 7 September.
The systematic violation of the rights of girls and women under the law has been brought to light due to the stance of Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein, who Amnesty International I considers to be a human rights defender.
Picture caption: Former journalist Lubna Hussein leaves the cafe where she was arrested in Khartoum for wearing trousers (Copyright: Private)