Sudanese woman guilty of daring to wear trousers

Journalist who defied restrictive law fined for 'indecency' but could face prison if she refuses to pay

A Sudanese woman whose arrest on the charge of wearing trousers drew worldwide attention, escaped a public lashing yesterday but now faces up to a month in prison. Lubna Hussein was convicted of indecency but did not receive the typical sentence of 40 lashes as the judge opted to fine her.

Ms Hussein, who has used her trial to campaign against Sudan's restrictive decency code, said she would not pay the $200 (£120) penalty and could therefore face a prison sentence.

"I will not pay a penny," she told reporters at the court in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. "I won't pay, as a matter of principle. I would spend a month in jail. It is a chance to explore the conditions in jail."

The combative former journalist who quit her job with the United Nations to strip herself of immunity and fight the charge, attended the hearing wearing the same trousers she had worn when arrested. The pair of loose green slacks have now been seen around the world as Ms Hussein has attracted global headlines in her battle.

The 43-year-old widow has emerged as a powerful campaigner against Sudan's strict laws that limit how a woman can dress, and vowed to appeal against the conviction to the country's highest court if necessary. She has said she would tolerate "40,000 lashes" if that's what it takes to change the law.

Public support for her has surprised authorities in Sudan and before yesterday's hearing dozens of women wearing trousers and protesting outside the court were arrested.

"Lubna has given us a chance. She is very brave. Thousands of girls have been beaten since the 1990s, but Lubna is the first one not to keep silent," one of the protesters, Sawsan Hassan el-Showaya, told Reuters.

The presence of the Hussein supporters drew a rival demonstration by Islamists who chanted religious slogans and denounced the accused and the other women as prostitutes. Scuffles broke out and around 40 women were arrested.

Ms Hussein's lawyer Galal al-Sayed, said afterwards she had been advised to pay the fine before appealing but she had refused. Sudan faced international condemnation over the case and the judge's decision appeared calculated to defuse the situation. She was tried in a normal court and allowed a lawyer, whereas other women are often tried for the same offence in special courts with no defence.

Inside the courtroom a number of foreign diplomats and human-rights activists gathered to show their support and underline the fact that the trial has become a test case for women's rights in Sudan. The journalist was arrested in July at a party in Khartoum along with 12 other women and had faced the possibility of 40 lashes for wearing trousers deemed indecent. Ten of the other women arrested at the same time have since pleaded guilty and suffered a public flogging.

Sudan operates under a sharia system in the mainly Muslim north and the strict interpretation of Islamic law has generated tension with the majority Christian south. In an article published before the trial, Ms Hussein said the restrictive laws were in part to blame for the tensions that have regularly provoked civil conflicts in Africa's largest country. "When I think of my trial, I pray that my daughters will never live in fear of these police ... We will only be secure once the police protect us and these laws are repealed," she wrote.

Campaigners in Sudan complain that the decency code gives too much latitude to individual policemen, leading to often arbitrary arrests. Article 152 of Sudan's penal code states that "indecent" dress among women is punishable by a fine and public flogging.

Amnesty International called on Sudan to review the law. "The penalty called for by the law, up to 40 lashes [is] abhorrent," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty's deputy Africa director. "Women are routinely arrested, detained, tried and then, on conviction, flogged simply because a police officer disapproves of their clothing."

Sudan: A study in strife

*Sudan is Africa's largest country, with an area of 2.5 million sq km and a population of 41 million.

*The country gained independence in 1956, but a north–south civil war lasting two decades claimed 1.5 million lives before a 2005 peace deal.

*A British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, was jailed after letting pupils name a teddy Muhammad. She escaped 40 lashes but served 8 days of a 15-day jail sentence and was deported.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing